State of Waste Management in South East Asia
The lack of municipal solid waste management in Asian countries has become
a serious problem. Both the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP)
Global Environment Outlook (GEO) 2 and the Asian Development Bank's (ADB)
report "Sustainable Development in Asia (August 2000) pointed out this
alarming condition. Only a few cities in Asia – notably, Singapore and
Hong Kong -- and in Australia, Japan and New Zealand -- have adequate waste
disposal sites. Even these cities are facing the specter of increasing volumes
of waste (GEO 3, p. 253).
Solid waste management is not the only cause for concern in Asia. The absence
of a system for managing wastewater and sewage is equally serious. An even
bigger concern is the growing quantities of hazardous, toxic waste that hospitals
and industrial and commercial establishments generate. Based on the ADB report,
about 60 percent - 65 percent of this type of waste is deposited in dumpsites
or landfills, five percent - 10 percent dumped in the ocean, and the
rest incinerated or chemically treated. In most cases, proper safeguards are
largely ineffective or not in place at all.
Moreover, unsafe disposal of garbage and wastewater in the region, coupled
with poor hygiene, is creating opportunities for transmission of diseases.
This was reported in United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia
and the Pacific (UNESCAP)'s "Review of the State of the Environment
in Asia and the Pacific, presented during the Ministerial Conference on Environment
and Development held in Japan in September 2000.
There is no doubt that Asian countries need to formulate effective ways to
manage their waste. This is especially so among the Association of South East
Asian Nations (ASEAN) where major cities and urban centers are notorious for
open dumping. It has also been reported that marine and freshwater ecosystems
in the sub-region are among the most badly damaged in the world due to pollution
from all types of waste.
Solutions to problems of waste management are available. However, a general
lack of awareness of the impact of unattended waste on people's health
and lives, and the widespread perception that the solutions are not affordable
have made communities and local authorities apathetic towards the problems.
Information on the 'soft' solutions, which have more lasting effect - for
example, environmental education and communication, partnerships for a clean
environment, campaigns to promote environmental duties of every citizen - are
not widely disseminated.
"State of Waste Management in South East Asia" is an attempt at
making governments and peoples in the ASEAN sub-region aware of the state of
waste management - or lack of it - in each of their countries and
in the sub-region as a whole. It is hoped that this publication will open the
eyes of the citizens in this part of the world to the increasing menace posed
by the lack of waste management systems and inspire them to do their share
to make such systems operative. It also hopes to instill a moral compulsion
among policy makers to make waste management a part of their government's
This report is a result of a small survey conducted in 2002 by UNEP IETC in
cooperation with the ASEAN Working Group for Multilateral Environmental Agreements
(AWGMEA). The survey was undertaken to prepare a background paper on waste
management in the sub-region prior to the holding in Kuala Lumpur in October
2002 of an ASEAN High Level Consultation Meeting. The focus is to deliberate
on a proposal to establish a regional framework for collaboration in sustainable
integrated waste management.
This is a joint publication of UNEP IETC and the ASEAN Secretariat. It is
envisaged to be a reference for planning, programming and policy reviews on
waste management in each member state of ASEAN. It is also planned to be updated
every two years, and made available online, so that it can serve as a supplement
to the GEO reports, on the specialized area of waste management.