In 2003, Asia and the Pacific was marked by extreme
natural events such as droughts, floods, typhoons, mudslides, earthquakes,
heat and cold waves. There were also positive environmental policy developments
These natural anomalies took place amid other evolving environmental problems
including land degradation, air pollution and loss of biodiversity. The
region has however also witnessed significant policy developments in the
abatement of transboundary air pollution, the protection of biodiversity
and the fight against desertification.
Armed conflict in some parts of the region dominated the headlines,
but the less frequently mentioned regional environmental policy developments
were no less significant. Environmental issues which dominated included
freshwater, famine, and environment and security.
|Thirty-six per cent of Asia’s 3 500 million population lived
in urban areas in 2001 and more than 42 per cent of the continent’s
1 300 million urban residents lived in slums. It is now estimated
that one in two urban slum dwellers in the world are in Asia. About
900 million people or two-thirds of the world’s poor live
in this region. Nearly one in three Asians is poor.
Asia is home to 60 per cent of the world’s population, but
has only 36 per cent of the world’s freshwater resources.
About 80 per cent of the global population without access to improved
sanitation live in this region.
The majority of the world’s population most severely affected
by desertification and drought live in Asia. Out of a total land
area of 4.3 million km2 , Asia contains some 1.7 million km2 of
dry sub-humid, semi-arid, and arid land.
The Gobi Desert in China expanded by 52 400 km2 from 1994 to 1999,
creeping closer to Beijing. Over a quarter of China’s land
is officially classified as desert. Up to 400 million people are
under threat from the fast-advancing deserts.
Most Himalayan glaciers have been thinning and retreating over the
past 30 years, with losses accelerating to alarming levels in the
|Sources: UN-Habitat 2003, UNHCR 2003, UNEP 2002, Larsen 2004,
Greenpeace 2003, ICIMOD 2003, UNESCO 2003