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Implications: Asia and the Pacific

Key to charts
Area with high risk of water-induced soil degradation: Asia and the Pacific (% of land areas)
Source: IMAGE 2.2 (see technical annex)
It is no easy matter to generalize about environmental implications of the scenarios for a region as large and varied as Asia and the Pacific. It contains the two most populated countries in the world, India and China, as well as oceanic island nations and the land-locked states of the former Asian republics of the Soviet Union. It includes some of the poorest nations of the world, some of the most dynamic economies of recent times and several industrially advanced OECD countries.

The future of the environment in the region depends on a number of currently unanswered questions. Can the region recover from the recession of the late 1990s, as all the scenarios apart from Security First presume? How are pressures of continued population and urban growth handled - in a relatively hands-off manner as in Markets First and Security First, or with more hands-on planning and consideration as in Policy First and Sustainability First? How does technological development fare, especially in relation to the provision of energy? Do abundant coal resources dominate energy production as in the worlds of Markets First and Security First? How do national, regional and international governance structures develop and regional and international trade regimes evolve?

The specific themes of land, forests, freshwater, urban issues and biodiversity are addressed in more detail and at the sub-regional level in the remainder of this section. The potential impacts of a dramatic decline in the availability of clean freshwater are explored in the box.

Percentage of 2002 cropland severely degraded by 2032: Asia and the Pacific

Bars represent the percentage of 2002 cropland that has become so degraded by 2032 that it is of little value for production.

Source: PoleStar (see technical annex)

Key to charts

Growing populations, the spread of agriculture and climatic changes imply that the risk of land degradation increases in many parts of the region in all scenarios (see chart above). Of particular concern are loss of soil fertility and soil erosion in mountainous areas, which increase downstream sedimentation. The oceanic sub-regions - the South Pacific and Australia and New Zealand - are the least threatened and South and Southeast Asia the most affected. The effect of more rapid climate change in the Policy First and Sustainability First scenarios implies somewhat higher risk than might be expected, but as the rate of change slows in the longer term compared with Markets First and Security First conditions, other effects predominate.

Measures taken in Policy First and Sustainability First scenarios to improve agricultural practices limit the actual amount of degradation, at least on croplands (see chart above). These policies include improvements in land tenure systems and regional cooperation in managing erosion, particularly on steep slopes. In addition, some degraded land is restored. Cropland damage is exacerbated in a Security First world, where there is greater reliance on uncontrolled use of chemical fertilizers and less regional and international cooperation. Such agriculture practices decline in the world of Markets First, but the sheer volume of economic growth and associated demand leads to degradation as great as in Security First.