Perspectives Asia #1: Copper, Coal and Conflict
Perspectives Asia is a publication series of the Asia Desk of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung published in cooperation with the offices of the foundation in Asia. With this series, we intend to provide a German and European readership with an understanding of Asian perspectives, as well as an analysis of global trends and greater insights into developments and current political issues across the Asian region. Perspectives Asia focuses mainly on seven countries in East, Southeast and South Asia where the foundation has established offices. These are Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Thailand.
In this first issue, our authors report on conflicts and the implications of large-scale resource extraction in seven Asian countries. The global demand for fossil fuels, metals, minerals, wood, and, agricultural products has almost doubled in the last 30 years. During the same time period, international trade in those raw materials has actually increased by 150 percent.
A large share of the resources exploited in Asia is still used to supply international markets, and to manufacture consumer goods. But those regions – China, India, and Indonesia in particular – not only have substantial reserves of natural resources in their territories, they also need more and more energy and raw materials domestically to develop infrastructure and to supply their growing populations.
Asia’s increasing demand has serious repercussions for global raw materials markets, world trade, and international economic and security policies. But it is the people in the countries of origin who feel the effects of this rising demand most directly. Especially far from dense, urban centers and in the very places where coal, ore, and minerals are mined, the local populations are largely dependent on direct access to land and to clean water. Mining and plantation agriculture lead to a scarcity of water and land, and they pollute the environment, which time and again leads to conflicts between local residents and the private or state companies that run those operations.