The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog

Transport Connectivity and Environmental Consequences in the Borneo Economic Corridor

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 27, 2014

The East ASEAN sub region characterized by under-development and remote areas yet which possess outstanding ecosystems and natural resources. As part of improving ASEAN Connectivity to achieve a competitive and resilient region, the BIMP EAGA was established. The cooperation among EAGA countries needs to be intensified by improving the enabling conditions such as transport connectivity. The West Borneo Economic Corridor (WBEC) of BIMP EAGA which links West Kalimantan (Indonesia), Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysia) and Brunei Darussalam was endorsed to promote physical and cross-border mobility in order to enhance trade and investment activities within the corridor with Pontianak in Indonesia and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia as gateways to regional and international markets.

The island of Borneo, which comprises territory from Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, contains one of the richest natural endowments on earth, which include oil, coal, gas mining as well as tropical rainforest area that serves as valuable ecosystem with rich biodiversity and high carbonsequestration potential. Tropical rainforest area within WBEC stated as a global biodiversity hotspot which constitute as home to six per cent of the world’s biodiversity and containing the headwaters for 14 of Borneo’s 20 major rivers.

The unsustainable practices on the fulfillment of requirement in transport sector may affect the natural capital and related impacts of climate change as more people, goods and services are transported within and across the region. On the other hand, declining natural capital and climate-related natural hazard may also interrupt the economic activities.

In the mining sector, the construction of land transportation access resulted in direct habitat removal and habitat fragmentation, as well as increased noise pollution, vibration and dust associated with mining activities which bring negative impact on the habitat adjacent to the mining site. Meanwhile, river sedimentation and erosion has potentially caused costly dredging or even temporary shutdown as the mining companies in the Borneo depend on river-based transport to deliver their output to market.

Furthermore, transportation improvement influenced the change of spatial, economic activities and natural capital degradation in Malaysian Borneo. The development of land transport infrastructure in Sabah changed the settlement patterns of rural population as they created new village close to roads. The opening of road access also resulted in market opportunities for logging activity, which affected the traditionally shifting cultivators as they have lost access to forest resources. Meanwhile, in Sarawak, road construction and logging activities in area adjacent to forest had contributed to river siltation and further disrupted the process of fish proliferation.

Fostering economic growth through transportation connectivity in the sub region is important, nevertheless the consequences for GHG emissions need to be considered, infrastructure should also be resilient to anticipate climate change impacts and its development have to be sustainable to avoid natural capital degradation.

The above discussion on the relationship between economic activities and environment in Borneo in association with transport connectivity is part of a larger study under the ASEAN-Canada Research Fellowship on potential solutions of green growth for answering the dilemma of economic growth versus environmental protection in West Borneo Economic Corridor.

This blog post has been written by Paramitha Yanindraputri. Paramitha is currently Research Coordinator for Skills to Succeed Indonesia in Save the Children, and Research Fellow in Urban Development Studies at the University of Indonesia, as well as Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.


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