Ensure environmental sustainability

Where are we?

  UNDP integrated environmental initiatives and practices in the reconstruction of impoverished towns and villages devastated by the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008, including 973 newly constructed domestic bio-gas facilities. Photo credit: UNDP China

The region has done well against several targets and indicators pertaining to MDG 7. All countries in Asia and the Pacific have increased the proportion of terrestrial and marine areas that are under protection so as to reduce biodiversity loss.

The region as a whole also increased the proportion of land area that is covered by forest. However, if we exclude China and India from the analysis, Asia is struggling to prevent deforestation. On the other hand, Papua New Guinea accounts for a significant reduction in forest coverage in the Pacific. Increased timber export and conversion of forests into agricultural land and commercial usage are the main factors for deforestation.

While most of the accumulated carbon dioxide has come from developed countries, an increasing contribution is coming from developing Asian economies. For tracking greenhouse emissions in the region, however, the perceived outcome depends on the measure. The region as a whole has been reducing emissions in relation to gross domestic product, thanks to the region’s rapid economic growth. However, the majority of countries are not making any progress when it comes to emissions per capita. The Pacific’s contribution to global greenhouse emissions of CO2 is small, but the Pacific is the most fossil-fuel dependent sub-region. Its high dependence on imported fossil-fuels makes small and remote islands more vulnerable to fuel price rise.

Approximately 1.7 million people or 70 percent of the world’s population without access to basic sanitation live in this region. Similar for safe water supply, household wealth is the main driver of disparities in access to improved sanitation facilities.

Water scarcity as well as pollution is one of emerging threats in Asia and the Pacific. While the region as a whole is likely to meet the target of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015, the region is still home to nearly half of the world’s population without access to safe drinking water. While the poorest countries like Afghanistan and Cambodia, which had very low access to safe drinking water in the 1990s, made a remarkable progress over the last 20 years, a few Pacific Island economies, including Papua New Guinea, show reversals in improving access to safe drinking water. Several other countries made only slow progress so far in spite of relatively high proportion of population – for example, 70 percent in Indonesia and 85 percent in Pakistan - had access to safe drinking water in the 1990s. In addition, there are large rural-urban disparities within countries, which are mainly driven by differences in household wealth.

As for improved sanitation facilities, the region as whole is unlikely to meet the target of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to basic sanitation by 2015 unless the rate of progress is accelerated. In 1990, in half of the countries in the region, less than 50 percent of the population had access to basic sanitation; in Cambodia, India, Lao PDR and Nepal the proportion of the population with access to basic sanitation was less than 20 percent. China, Lao PDR and Viet Nam made remarkable progress over the last 20 years and already achieved the target. On the other hand, Federated States of Micronesia and Papua New Guinea further regressed from the 1990s level.

The proportion of urban population living in slums has been declining in Asian countries, for which data are available (MDG Database). In fact, the largest contributors to the decline in the proportion of slum dwellers in developing countries from 2000 to 2012 were Asian developing countries, as the 2013 MDG Report say. According to the State of Asian Cities 2010/2011, slum population in Asia and the Pacific (excluding Western Asia) was estimated at approximately 470 million persons, 31 percent of total urban population. It is about half of the world’s slum population. China and India alone have more than 285 million slum dwellers (2009 data, MDG Database).