South China Sea: Focus on environmental threats too

Jade-Lee.

ULAANBAATAR (Mongolia): Nations involved in the South China Sea dispute are too focused on territorial disputes, while ignoring the environmental threats facing the sea, says environmental activist Jade Lee.

On the sidelines of the 11th Asia-Europe People’s Forum, Lee, a Malaysian delegate from the Stop Lynas movement, told FMT that currently there were not enough discussions on the value of the South China Sea to its stakeholders.

She explained that the South China Sea was facing a number of environmental threats, including a rise in the sea level, industrial pollution, overfishing, and ocean acidification which makes sea water more acidic, thus endangering coral reefs and marine life.

Lee said all these issues were getting lost amidst the territorial disputes.

“If things go on this way, at the end of the day, the disputing nations will be fighting over a dead sea.

“The people who depend on the sea as a means of livelihood will be in trouble. Imagine not having any seafood to eat. This is what it could come to if these issues are not addressed,” she said, adding that tourism would also be affected.

Lee urged the governments concerned not to ignore these threats rather, she said, they should cooperate with each other to address these environmental issues.

She said people needed to speak up on these threats and encourage their governments to discuss and find solutions to the threats.
“We really need multilateral cooperation if we are to address these threats. Everyone will end up a loser if we cannot resolve them.”

Lee said Malaysia could take the lead in bringing the disputing countries together and highlight the fundamental issues threatening the South China Sea, over and beyond territorial disputes.

In recent years, China has been locked in territorial disputes in the South China Sea with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Citing a 1947 map, China is claiming almost the entire South China Sea, including some islands which are also being claimed by Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia.

In recent times, relations between China and the disputed countries have been strained due to China’s aggressive stance in the matter, including increasing the presence of military warships in the disputed areas.