Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Conservation in Asia | Asian Development Bank

Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Conservation in Asia

Article | 22 April 2013

The Asia-Pacific holds vast natural resources, which, if managed sustainably, can support economic development and livelihoods.

By the Numbers

$4 billion
Annual worth of fisheries exports from
the Coral Triangle in the Pacific

1 billion
Number of people provided with clean water
by the forested watersheds of the
Eastern Himalayas
As much as $4 billion
Annual worth of inland fishery supported
by the Lower Mekong River Basin
3 billion tonnes
Amount of carbon stored in
the Heart of Borneo,
the third largest tropical rainforest in the world

Asia's natural resources are among the richest and most diverse in the planet. The region holds 20% of the world's biodiversity, 14% of the world's tropical forests, and 34% of global coral resources, including the greatest number of marine species in the world. Asia's natural ecosystems and biodiversity provide numerous social and economic benefits, providing local livelihoods, supporting food, water and energy security, and regulating the global climate.

However, rapid economic development, poor management and corruption have had a large destructive impact on the region's ecological systems. In the last 40 years ecosystems in the region have declined at twice the global average.

One of ADB's key strategic agendas is the promotion of environmental sustainability through projects that support efforts to maintain and enhance biodiversity and ecosystems in the region. Many of ADB's projects directly support sustainable natural resources management, while its safeguard provisions aim to ensure that no net loss of biodiversity occurs as a result of any ADB projects.

Preserving natural capital

Read the report Ecological Footprint and Investment in Natural Capital in Asia and the Pacific jointly published by ADB and WWF.

Yet, not all is lost. Read an interview with ADB's Bruce Dunn who explains how countries in the Asia and Pacific Region need to work together to 'scale up and replicate' actions sustaining natural capital while enhancing human welfare.

ADB is supporting a series of regional cooperation initiatives to improve the management of large-scale transboundary ecosystems.

Sharing the catch

The Coral Triangle is the global center of marine biodiversity, with a staggering array of marine life. Published by ADB and WWF, the Coral Triangle Book documents an 18-month expedition by award-winning photographer Jürgen Freund and Stella-Chiu Freund.

View a photo essay showcasing the people, places, and marine ecosystems that make this region truly remarkable.

More information on ADB's support to the Coral Triangle initiative can be found here.

Lungs of Asia

With 22 hectares of forest, the Heart of Borneo is the largest expanse of tropical forest in Asia. ADB has partnered with WWF, the Globel Environment Facility (GEF) and the governments of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia to conserve these lush forests, providing sustainable livelihood for local populations and a safe haven for thousands of animals and plant species.

The Heart of Borneo initiative addresses threats such as illegal logging, forest conversion into rubber plantations, forest fires and illegal wildlife trade, among others.

Water tower of Asia

The Eastern Himalayas, aptly referred to as the 'water tower of Asia', extends across India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Its rich forest ecosystems are unique to the region, feeding 7 major rivers with freshwater for more than a billion people.

Recognizing its importance, the four countries held a Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas in 2011, leading to a Framework for Regional Cooperation. ADB and WWF are providing early support to help secure biodiversity, and ensure food security, fresh water and energy for the region.

Biodiversity corridors in the Greater Mekong Subregion

The GMS has been described as one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. Most of this globally important diversity extends across national borders, making regional cooperation essential.

Since 2005, ADB has supported the six GMS countries through a Core Environment Program and Biological Corridors Initiative. The initiative provides a platform for multi-country and multi-sector engagement on key environmental issues including the management of biodiversity corridors.

Combatting wildlife trade

Illegal wildlife trade is the world's fifth largest global illegal trade, worth around $8-10 billion, with serious ecological, economic, security and social costs. To identify actions to combat illegal trade of wildlife and marine life across Asia and the Pacific, a symposium was held in Bangkok in March 2013.

ADB strongly believes the judiciary plays a key role in achieving sustainable development by upholding and enforcing environmental laws. In developing Asia, ADB is helping countries promote green justice through knowledge sharing and capacity building of initiatives such as the Asian Judges Network on the Environment, which looks at how the rule of law and the judiciary impact on the environment.

The environment-development nexus

ADB has been working closely with the GEF since the mid-1990s to show that a clean environment is essential for both sustainable development and poverty reduction.

Read how, with assistance from GEF and ADB, the government of the People's Republic of China is reducing poverty, restoring dryland ecosystems, and conserving biodiversity through an integrated ecosystem management (IEM) approach.