ADB blamed for mangroves destruction in Asean region

ADB blamed for mangroves destruction in Asean region

18 April 2008

By Amy R. Remo

MANILA, Philippines — A fisheries coalition has held the Asian Development Bank accountable for mangrove loss and falling fish stocks as it “promoted environmentally destructive aquaculture in the Philippines, Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries in the ’70s until the ’90s.

In a statement, the Kilusang Mangingisda said the ADB and other international finance institutions offered billions of dollars in loans and grants to increase fisheries production and trade in Asia and worldwide, especially of high-value species like tuna and shrimp.

This resulted in an expansion of “intensive” aquaculture, which led to a massive loss of mangrove areas, the dwindling fishery stocks and to the present deficit in the supply of food fish in the country, KM chair Bonifacio Federizo argued.

KM blamed this huge support for creating an environmental catastrophe in the massive destruction of mangrove areas in the region.

“The ADB and World Bank funds fueled the expansion of intensive aquaculture in Southeast Asia, which converted most mangrove areas for the large-scale production of shrimp and other species for both export and major domestic markets,” Federizo noted.

According to KM, the total area of mangroves lost is “mind-boggling.”

In the Philippines, only 117,000 hectares remained out of 500,000 hectares of mangroves. Mangrove conversion to fishponds is the main reason for this huge loss, according to KM.

In Thailand, 203,765 hectares, representing 55 percent of total mangrove area, were lost while in Vietnam, only 60,000 hectares of an original 200,000 hectares in the Mekong Delta remained.

Federizo pointed out that the loss of mangroves “consequently led to a decline in wild-fish stocks in coastal areas and ultimately to the present deficit in food fish, which is estimated to average 403,000 tons yearly.”

KM argued that the ADB has not owned up to its responsibility and that in fact, “aquaculture programs are now its priority over capture fisheries programs since it came up with a 1997 assessment that claimed its capture fisheries programs were a failure.”

“We therefore hold ADB accountable for its role in causing large-scale damage of the coastal areas. We demand that it stop financing further intensive aquaculture expansion or maintenance,” Federizo said.

He pointed out that only a few wealthy companies see any profits in intensive aquaculture. “On the other hand, millions of people in coastal communities, once protected by mangroves and other natural coastal barriers, now are left vulnerable to natural disasters,” he added.

Citing data from the Food and Aquaculture Organization, Federizo said huge amounts were spent to develop large aquaculture complexes, build bigger and more efficient fish ports, as well as post-harvest processing facilities since the ’70s.

Between 1985 and 1989, all forms of external assistance to the fisheries and the aquaculture sectors of developing countries averaged US$ 500 million a year,” he added.

“From 1989 to 1995, the ADB and the World Bank were the prime supporters of aquaculture in Asia, accounting for 69 percent of total foreign funding and supported 40 percent of the total projects,” he said.

Overall, from 1974 to 1996, aquaculture loan commitments worldwide had reached a total of $ 1.3 billion, the group said.

“The World Bank provided 77 percent of this amount, followed by the Asian Development Bank at 13 percent. The ADB loans were given exclusively to Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines and Indonesia,” he said.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer