UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report Recent Trends in Material Flows and Resource Productivity in Asia and the Pacific 2013 released on 24 April 2013 reported that Asia Pacific has surpassed the rest of the world in material consumption and will continue to dominate the world material flow. The findings and conclusions of the report is based on an updated material flows database which presents data up to 2008, and the onset of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).
As per the findings of the report, the trade balance of Asia Pacific indicates that the current rate of exploitation of the resource base is not sufficient to fulfill the ever-growing demands of the fast-growing economies and the changing lifestyles. The report indicated that from 1970 to 2008, the consumption of construction minerals in the region increased 13.4 times. Similarly metal ores and industrial mineral consumption increased 8.6 times. Biomass and fossil fuels have also seen an increase of 2.7 and 5.4 times respectively.
The report indicates that at such a pace of development the area will have to depend upon imports. The material intensity of the region – consumption of materials per dollar Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is an area of serious concern. The development of the region has increased pressures over the environment by exceeding the rapid growth of the region.
At present the material intensity of the Asia-Pacific is three times the rest of the world. The current rate of consumption is also having a negative impact on the environment.
From 1970 and 2008, the material consumption of the area has gone up to 37.5 billion tonnes from 6.2 billion tonnes. In all these years, the region has grown at a rate of 4.8 percent. By 2008 in the record of consumption, China accounts for 60 percent and India accounts for 14 percent of the total regional domestic material consumption. Overall Asia Pacific accounts to 89 percent of the average per capita income of the world.
• Between 2005 to 2008, the per capita material consumption increased by 25 percent
• Due to the strong domestic demands, it has reinforced its position as a net importer of materials (in particular petroleum)
• Since 1980s the resource efficiency of China has shown a good progress
• Over-all material Consumption of India has remained low, whereas the consumption of metal ores, industrial minerals has grown 8.6 percent every year from 1998 to 2008. Thus India is moving at a great pace to change itself into an industrialized economy
The report also identified that the Asia-Pacific is making a slide transition to mineral based economy from the biomass based economy, i.e. a transition from agrarian economy to industrialized economy. The biomass in the region has gone down to 25 percent, which accounts to more than half of the domestic extraction, whereas the construction material has seen a growth of 51.4 percent.
The report has called up for being vigilant in making up of the development policies and recommended the establishment of a harmonised database to share materials.