The Asia-Pacific Region covers a vast diversity of geography, biodiversity and social and economic conditions. Asia-Pacific is also the most economically dynamic region in the world with some nations repeatedly achieving nearly 10% annual economic growth. Some estimates suggest that by 2050 China and South-East Asia will equal or even exceed the gross domestic product of Europe and North America. It may well be the case that the Asia-Pacific Region in 2010 will have three distinct groups of nations: post-industrial Japan, Australia and New Zealand, a fully industrialised group (the current 'tiger' economies, and parts of China) and developing countries (for example the currently poorest nations of Nepal, Cambodia, Myanmar). It is likely that the economic, demographic and social transitions in these countries will have a far larger impact on the conservation of forests than government policy on forests and the environment, or environmental campaigns.
Environmental policies and legal instruments have been created in every country in the region. However, implementation is often poor and may often be further confused by conflicts between national law, state or provincial laws and religious laws and local customs. The willingness of governments to uphold stated objectives and legal regulations is, at best, sporadic and highly variable. Although extensive areas have been set aside in protected areas and forest reserves, many exist on paper alone. One positive factor in favour of conservation is the willingness of governments to make international commitments, especially through the ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Again, however, there remains a question over the urgency with which governments will provide the resources to fulfil the obligations placed upon them by such international instruments.
Regional studies show that there remain opportunities for the further development of protected areas networks throughout the region, allowing more comprehensive representation and conservation of forest biodiversity. There is ample evidence to show however that many protected areas exist on paper alone and a key test in the period to 2010 is the extent to which protected areas can be developed into fully functional conservation units with a long term future. One avenue that it likely to be explored more fully will the development of multiple use areas that accommodate local exploitation. Industrial forestry is likely to become more environmentally benign, with the development of low impact logging techniques and the development of more extensive plantations. Such plantations might in time evolve in to diverse mixtures that can meet timber requirements whilst also fulfilling a biodiversity conservation role.
By far the greatest legal problem is law enforcement which must be tackled as one of the major hurdles in achieving the sustainable management of renewable resources. Legal instruments and formal law enforcement is a distant irrelevance to daily life in many remote, rural areas. Villagers make up their own rules to control daily affairs and edicts from central government are carry very little weight. A new approach is developing such that local communities themselves adopt suitable rules and control methods to ensure that forest resources are used correctly. Community forest management (or some form of joint management between the community and the state), and local participation in protected areas, is becoming increasingly important. For a host of reasons, conventional top-down land use management has failed in many cases and in many aspects. Not only are forests threatened by uncontrolled use, but protected areas set aside for biodiversity conservation frequently do not have local support and are therefore also subject to uncontrolled exploitation.
This paper has attempted to forecast the prospects for the future of forest conservation, including protected areas, in the Asia-Pacific region to the year 2010, on the basis of three scenarios:
1. assuming a continuation of the present level of action and policy environment ('status quo')
2. assuming sustained environmental campaigns and a heightened role for conservation than is currently the case ('better')
3. assuming specified deterioration in policy and action related to conservation ('worse')
Table 7 summarises the main effects that are likely to emerge in the next 15 years or so under these three scenarios and in three broad themes: protected areas, forestry sector and in community forest management.
In the period to 2010 it is likely that the role of government will change in the face of socio-economic change, the globalizing economy and a trend towards liberalising national economies. Government departments are likely to be less involved directly in land use management and will act more as regulatory agencies steering and harnessing free-market forces, and the energies and abilities of social-voluntary actions by civil society.
This effect might be seen most visibly in those nations with the most rapidly growing economies. Others, yet to make the transition from a largely rural based to industrial economy might retain aspects of land use management that often has it roots in the nineteenth century, with powerful forest departments executing government policy. Promoting the role of local communities involves a paradigm shift in the attitudes of governments. Such a change is likely to occur, if only because it may enable governments to deliver conservation and sustainable use targets for a relatively low investment.
It is already evident that governments are relative powerless in the face of the global economy, and it is likely therefore their role will change. The short term view of a self interested and free market will in time lead to the removal of all but the most remote and inaccessible forest resources. Government's role will still be crucial in securing longer term and wider social priorities.
The impact of growth in the wider economy will have on forest conservation is likely to be very different under these differing socio-economic conditions. As populations in these nations become wealthier and tend to urbanise, direct pressures on natural resources might ease and be substituted by intensive agriculture and industry. Communities currently engaged in a subsistence and forest-based livelihood may abandon their traditional homes and migrate towards better paid, urban-based employment, a process that is well established in Peninsular Malaysia. This could have the positive effect of reducing pressure on forests or the negative effect of reducing the value of forests in the eyes of a community that has ceased to depend upon it for their income and subsistence.
Populations are growing throughout the region and there will be greater demand for land for development, hydroelectricity production, export crops and so on. Economic growth will also lead to technological change. There is likely to be very considerable growth in the use of private motor cars, and other energy-expensive manufactured goods such as air conditioning and refrigerators, and nations will take on many of the attributes currently regarded as typical of western societies. Forest conservation could therefore be supplanted as a priority environmental issue by air and water pollution and urban congestion.
Table 7 Summary
Production Forestry sector
Increase in area under nominal protection
Management of most PA will remain weak and 'paper parks' will proliferate.
Funding requirements climb and may not be met
Need for additional commitment to training, extension and other services
Significant opportunities to 'capture' biodiversity in PA possibly based on existing or new reviews may be missed.
Category VI will slowly become more common.
Conflicts with local communities will proliferate
Forest exploitation continues
Some improvements to forestry practices reduce impacts on productions forests.
* '(conflict with rural communities will continue.
Conservation areas still perceived as 'islands'.
Industrial plantations may reduce pressure on natural forests.
Economic development may reduce pressure on NTFP
Forest department culture continues to be largely focused on production issues.
Forestry policy and legislation continues to exclude local communities
Minor policy or legal changes lead to only modest conservation and community development gains.
Illegal forest colonisation continues to follow logging operations.
Sustained and equitable economic growth
Switch to secondary and tertiary economic activities
Growth in NGO activity
Media receptive to environmental concerns
International obligations, e.g. CBD
Increase in PA networks, based on existing or new scientific studies
PA network design improves
Nature of some Pas will change to accommodate people's needs more and Category VI sites become common; bioregional management developed
Considerable increase in costs, reflecting higher investments in staffing, etc..
Urgent need to address staffing and training requirements
Management of existing PA will improve
Conservation integrated into other sectors.
Much improved management and strict environmental standards will reduce logging impacts.
All logging in natural forest may be banned
Industrial forestry shifts to plantations.
Plantations will be based on mixtures or mosaics with natural forest/agriculture
International pressures (e.g. certification will augment internal demands for conservation.
Forest Department culture changes to accommodate broader vision.
Government policy shifts from industrial forestry/national economy focus towards a conservation/rural development focus.
Substantial increase of proportion of forests under community management
Effective representation of local communities
Informal community management legitimised and form basis for transition strategies
International trade war
Collapse of tourism industry
Inequitable land distribution
Some increase in area covered expected but existing scientific work ignored so biodiversity representation will remain patchy.
Effectiveness will drop away as inadequate legal, administrative support provided by government
PA will cease to have conservation value, paper parks will proliferate, encroachment will increase
Down stream impacts will increase e.g. poorer water security, diminishing NTFP
Strict protection models based on a top-down approach will continue to be the norm.
Increased conflict with local communities
Increased conversion of natural forests to other land uses.
Impacts of logging natural forests not stemmed
Priority conservation areas lost.
Conflict with local communities.
Failure to meet development needs of local communities.
Forest Department culture remains focused on narrow vision.
Forestry overwhelmed by external macro-economic and international factors, community forest management marginalized.