It's getting scary in tropical Asia.
Bridge to Hell
For starters, the onslaught from Asia's infrastructure explosion continues, with the latest blow being a controversial bridge that would cut into one of Malaysian Borneo's most important protected areas, Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.
The 350-meter-long bridge, part of a much larger road network, will imperil large expanses of forest in Sabah state, increasing deforestation and poaching of Bornean Elephants, primates, birds, and other species.
Bulldozers have already begun clearing parts of the road network, known as the Sabah Development Corridor -- despite the fact that an environmental impact assessment for the project has yet to be completed.
The area under threat is tremendously rich in primates and other wildlife species, say experts. It should be conserved for ecotourism, they argue, not imperiled for short-term economic gain.
Understanding Asia's Biodiversity Crisis
For those trying to get their heads around the avalanche of threats to tropical Asian biodiversity, ALERT member Alice Hughes, an authority on Asian conservation, has just published an excellent review article.
Some key points from Alice's review:
2. Southeast Asia has already lost over 50% of it’s former forest cover. Forest loss is actually accelerating in parts of the region, which is the world's biggest supplier of rubber, oil palm, and wood and paper pulp.
3. Alarmingly, corporations funding development in Southeast Asia have the least sustainable policies globally.
4. It's not just forests that are endangered. Also imperiled are karsts (limestone formations), many of which are arcs for unique biodiversity. Karst is being heavily mined for cement, 60 percent of which is consumed by China.
5. Wetland ecosystems are also at serious risk, with 80-90 percent of all inland and coastal wetlands having been destroyed. Aquatic species and shorebirds that rely on these habitats are being decimated. Hundreds of new dams are planned across the region, including massive dams on the Mekong River and its tributaries.
6. Unsustainable hunting and harvesting of wildlife is a killer. In many areas, hardly any mammals over 1 kilogram in weight survive outside of protected areas. Birds and reptiles are also widely collected for the pet trade or traditional medicines, especially for aggressive Chinese importers.
As the situation in tropical Asia becomes increasingly dire, the corporations and nations driving biological impoverishment are going to find themselves increasingly named, shamed, and publicly castigated by conservationists.
There simply isn't time for gentler tactics -- not with so much of tropical Asia's biodiversity standing with its back against the wall.