While Southeast Asian nations encourage political actions in favor of economic growth, they struggle to promote sustainable development approaches. Governments claim to work on a balanced approach that compromises both sectors.
The reality of the situation, however, reveals that governments tend to act in contradictory manners in their creations of sustainable economies.
The European Union’s decision to subsidize biofuels was once seen as a necessary step to reduce greenhouse gas savings. However, people are beginning to criticize this decision, as the subsidization of biofuels has driven up food prices and contributed to deforestation. And indeed, palm oil monocultures in Indonesia are clearly connected to – and may even cause — aspects of social impoverishment and ecological tragedies. Yet another debate is the massive damming projects in Laos. While promoted as a component of sustainable development, the dams provoke critique from civil society movements and riparian states who see the dams as a threat to the ecological functioning of the Mekong River. Ecotourism is yet another example of a concept which is meant to preserve nature, but in fact is responsible for an irreversible impact on people’s livelihoods all over Southeast Asia.
Whether it is rising sea levels, the devastation of the rainforests, or greenhouse gas emission, it has become evident that environmental issues do not halt at nations’ borders. Environmental issues ought to be seen as transnational problems. Hence, policy makers in Southeast Asia are under increasing pressure to reconfigure their environmental policies to satisfy their citizens’ needs on a national level. Furthermore, Southeast Asian governments must foster a multilateral dialogue to avoid simply procrastinating problems.