By Rachael Willis
Jakarta, Indonesia, September 6, 2015
What really happened in Tianjin is the result of a creeping environmental disaster unfolding across the globe, particularly in Southeast Asia, and it reflects the magnitude of the challenge that the leaders of the 10 ASEAN nations face as they seek to balance both economic growth and natural resource protection.
According to a 2013 World Bank report on climate change, Southeast Asian nations face disproportionate impacts in terms of sea-level rise, precipitation, related food insecurity and power challenges, and a host of other impacts. The Mekong delta, along with those of the Irrawaddy and Chao Phraya, are especially at risk as stresses to their ever-growing urban populations increase.
These nations include Malaysia, where illegal and unregulated bauxite mining raises fears of radioactive contamination in the region of Pahang. While regulated and closely monitored bauxite mining operations are largely considered safe and sustainable, in Malaysia this has not yet become the case. Largely due to repeated failures to enforce environmental and social safety standards, bauxite, much of which is sent to China for aluminum extraction processes, has leaked into water samples and left its toxic red dust in the wind, the sea, and the homes of villagers, resulting in serious health consequences for the population and the contamination of marine life. Meanwhile on Borneo Island, the lucrative global demand for palm oil is implicated in the nation’s growing deforestation and wildlife management challenges.
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Image Source: Amnesty International