Asia’s natural resources getting strained by development ni Mayvelin U. Carballo

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Asia Pacific countries must maintain their natural capital such as forests, biodiversity, freshwater, and coastal and marine ecosystems to achieve a green economy, according to a joint report by the Asian Development Bank(ADB) and Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The report entitled “Ecological Footprint and Investment in Natural Capital in Asia and the Pacific” said that the Asia Pacific region is consuming more resources than its ecosystems can sustain, threatening the future of the region’s beleaguered forests, rivers, and oceans as well as the livelihoods of those who depend on them. In the past two decades, the report noted that the state of ecosystems in the region has been declining because of the activities such as conversion of primary forests to agricultural land or monoculture plantations; extensive coastal developments and unsustainable exploitation of marine resources; and conversion of freshwater ecosystem for agricultural use. The joint ADB-WWF study, looks in more detail at the state of ecosystems in Asia-Pacific and what can be done to sustain them. It focuses on ways of preserving key large-scale regional ecosystems, including the forests of Borneo, the marine wealth of the Coral Triangle, the Mekong region’s diverse habitats, and the mountainous Eastern Himalayas.These areas contain some of the region’s most important natural resources on which millions of people depend for their sustenance and development. Nessim Ahmad, ADB director for Environment and Safeguards, said that major ecosystems such as the Coral Triangle and the heart of the Borneo rainforest are vital to the future of Asia-Pacific.”We need large-scale programmatic efforts based on regional cooperation and local level action to make sure they are sustained for future generations,” Ahmad added.

Per capita drops

Moreover, the report explained that by 2008, the per capita natural resources in these regional ecosystems had shrunk by about two-thirds compared to 1970. Despite the rich natural capital in the region, the report noted that bio-diversity is in decline in all types of ecosystems, with the rate of species loss about twice the global average. The report used the Living Planet Index — one of the more widely used indicators for tracking the state of biodiversity around the world — to measure changes in the health of ecosystems across the Asia-Pacific. The global index fell by about 30 percent between 1970 and 2008, while the Indo-Pacific region shows an even greater decline of 64 per-cent in key populations of species during the same period. Across the region, the gap between the ecological footprint, or human demand for natural resources, and the environment’s ability to replenish those resources is widening, it added. The report also said that the challenge for countries of Asia Pacific is to manage their natural sustainability, so that they maintain ecosystems services such as food, water, timber, pollination of crops and absorption of human waste products like carbon dioxide, to attain long-term development.

“We need to create mechanisms that make protecting our resources the right economic choice for the communities that use and depend on them,” said WWF Director General Jim Leape. Investing in the region’s resources pays. It is estimated that every dollar spent on conservation efforts would yield an economic and social value of ecosystems worth over $100, it added. On the other hand, ADB said that it places environmentally sustainable growth at the core of its work to help reduce poverty in the region. It approved a record 59 projects supporting environmental sustainability in 2011, which amounted to about $7 billion in financing.


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