It surprised me a little bit when I was driving my family along the west coast of Aceh a couple of weeks ago. Not too far from Banda Aceh, the capital city of Aceh’s province, a 15 meters wide- fresh-paved asphalt road built by the US absolutely has framed Aceh into another window of opportunity. This strategic road will connect Banda Aceh and some other districts in the west coast, which was washed away by the tsunami.
A few days before the start of the U.N. climate conference this week in Copenhagen, the results of an interesting – and very relevant – poll were released by the World Bank. While world leaders and other high-level representatives from more than 190 countries negotiate during the two-week conference (Dec. 7-18), this multi-country survey attempts to give a voice to average people in the developing world.
If you haven’t already taken the time to do some development-related Googling after last week’s announcement that World Bank statistics are now available through the ubiquitous search engine’s public data tool, I’d suggest exploring the exciting new feature. Now, anyone can easily access 17 World Development Indicators by searching for them in Google. Give it a try by searching for the GDP of China or CO2 emissions of Indonesia or exports of Thailand – or another country and any of these indicators.
When you click on the search result, an interactive chart page shows you how the data have changed over time and allows you to compare to other countries (or the world). (You can also embed the chart, like the one below.) For example, take a look at how the GDP growth rate of China compares to Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines in the last 50 years.
To further explore the data, check out another nifty tool, also launched last week by the World Bank. DataFinder lets you research more about these development indicators and see how they look on an interactive map. Read more about DataFinder here.
Here’s an interesting and quick item to check out on a Friday. This map gives an attractive, at-a-glace look at some of the world’s key natural resources, organized by country. A couple of things to note that are East Asia-related: China leads more categories (at least on this map) than any other country, including wheat, cotton, gold and rice.
In my earlier blog posts and video on my return visit to Siberut, I mentioned that we had visited the Pungut Research Camp of the German Primate Centre and Institut Pertanian Bogor in the far north of the island.
The 4000 ha forested study area is leased from the logging company within whose concession it lies and is used under an agreement with the clan which claims it and in cooperation with the community of the local village, Politcioman. This first-rate site has been operating for several years and can support national and international researchers. It took some while to iron out some problems but these have now been sorted.
|It was clear that our study area on the Indonesian island of Siberut is now rarely visited by anyone. (More photos)|
My last post described my reactions to going back to Siberut Island with my wife after a 30-year break, and this one considers the changing conservation situation there. The terrestrial mammals of the island are remarkable in that almost all are endemic, and among them are four species of primates (one an endemic genus) – levels of endemism equivalent to those found in Madagascar.
There has been formal logging on and off over the last 30 years but we hadn’t found a map of exactly where. When we reached the basin where our study area had been, the views from the villages was of logged-over forest. The rights to log the forests had been negotiated with local clans, but in hindsight the benefits were pretty meager and short-lived. The trees the loggers sought were the large and magnificent Shorea, and with these now gone it is getting harder for people to make their dugout canoes. Also, we were struck by the contrast of the timber quality of the longhouses we visited in areas without logging against the timber quality of the small government-sponsored modern houses with corrugated iron roofs. The timber available now seems to start looking decayed as soon as it is nailed into place.
Given that Asia is now widely seen as leading the world out of the crisis, it is fitting that the role of Asia was more prominently recognized in the global economic system in the recent G20 meeting held in Pittsburgh. Since we last looked in July, the outlook for the emerging markets of East Asia has continued to brighten. The latest regional forecasts come from the Asian Development Bank in its Asian Development Outlook (pdf) published last week. It points to “the rapid turnaround in [Asia’s] largest, less export-dependent economies” and predicts that “the regional economy is now poised to achieve a V-shaped rebound.” These are very positive words indeed! As the graph below shows, the ADB has in fact upgraded its growth forecasts for a number of economies for 2009.
Although the signs are pointing upwards, performance is still mixed in a number of key areas.
Go anywhere after a 30 year break and you expect to see change – and you hope things will be better. Thus my wife Jane and I, together with our four children, were intrigued to see what life was like now on Siberut, the largest and most northerly of the Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra, when we visited it a few weeks ago. Jane and I had lived in a hut in the middle of the island conducting wildlife research for over two years until 1978. We wanted to see our closest friend there, Potifar Tengatiti Siribetuk, as well as other old friends, our old study area, some of the remaining traditional houses, and as many of Siberut’s four endemic species of primates as we could.
Visiting the island and the provincial capital of Padang also provided an opportunity to observe the impacts of the $1 million of grants which had focused on Siberut under the Phase 1 of the World Bank-implemented Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. These grants had followed on from an Asian Development Bank loan project (pdf) from 1992-2000 which was not a resounding success for a variety of reasons. This had itself followed on from WWF projects.