Although the countries of Southeast Asia today are relying mostly on agriculture, they are developing into industrialized nations. As they become more urbanized and use their natural resources in different industries, they are faced with a variety of environmental problems.
Living in Southeast Asia Agriculture is the leading economic activity in Southeast Asia, with rice the most important crop. Most farmers grow subsistence crops, but rubber, sugarcane, and other crops serve as cash crops. The region has a thriving forestry industry and is rich in mineral deposits. Industry is growing rapidly in Southeast Asia, but the growth rate for both manufacturing and service industries varies widely within the region. As the countries have grown more interdependent, they have formed organizations to promote regional development. Waterways provide major transportation routes and link the region with the world. The development of other means of transportation and communication depend on the level of industrialization in each country.
People and Their Environment The people in the region periodically face volcanic eruptions, flash floods, and typhoons. In addition to these natural disasters, pollution is a growing problem. Cities have to deal with inadequate water supplies and sanitation, traffic jams, and overheating. In rural areas contaminated water supplies, dumping of toxic waste, and smoke from forest fires can affect people in the immediate area as well as far away. Excessive logging has led to deforestation and major flooding. In recent years some Southeast Asian countries have begun forest management and other programs to protect their environments. Such efforts, however, are difficult to enforce or carry out, and illegal logging continues to be a problem.