Deforestation, floods and state reactions in China and Thailand | Land Portal

Informations sur la ressource

Date of publication: 
janvier 2002
Resource Language: 
ISBN / Resource ID: 
eldis:A15058

What factors motivate developing countries to prevent deforestation, which can cause serious environmental damage, such as flooding? Do democratic states take action more effectively than authoritarian states? This paper considers these questions using two case studies: the 1988 floods in Thailand and the 1998 floods in China, both attributed to extensive deforestation.The paper provides an overview of the state regulation of forestry and state responses to deforestation prior to the disasters in the two countries, and compares state reactions following the floods.Prior to the floods, the paper notes that both China and Thailand suffered extensive deforestation. In both countries, the state responded with weak ‘proactive policies’, which had a limited impact on deforestation such as regulations on logging, establishment of forest reserves, reforestation programs and forests.The reasons for weak proactive policy were similar in both countries. These include:economic development was given higher priority than environmental conservationinsufficient funds were allocated for monitoring and controlling illegal logginglocal corruption and collusion between officials and logging intereststhe desire of government to avoid unnecessary conflict with ethnic minorities in some forested regions for the sake of political stabilityThe floods in Thailand in 1988 and the floods in China in 1998 caused great damage to the local population and economy. This led to a much stronger state reaction. Logging was banned in both countries, leading to a fall in deforestation.Based on these two cases, the paper suggests that:deforestation in developing countries will normally induce weak proactive policies ecological disaster can stimulate strong reactive responses which produce more dramatic results in forest depletionneither democracy nor critical mass media nor activist NGOS are necessary for such a strong state response to occur The paper concludes that in general, both authoritarian and democratic states in developing countries are too committed to short term economic goals to impose more than weak proactive environmentalist policies. However, environmental disasters, such as floods, by threatening national economic well being, and thereby, regime survival can lead to much stronger state reactions.

Auteurs et éditeurs

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

G. Lang

Fournisseur de données

eldis (ELDIS)

Eldis is an online information service providing free access to relevant, up-to-date and diverse research on international development issues. The database includes over 40,000 summaries and provides free links to full-text research and policy documents from over 8,000 publishers. Each document is selected by members of our editorial team.


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