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Asia-Pacific most prone to disaster, says United Nations

Published : May 20, 2016, 3:19 am IST
Updated : May 20, 2016, 3:19 am IST

Sounding a note of caution, a United Nations report touted the Asia-Pacific region as the world’s most disaster-prone region, accounting for 91 per cent of the world’s deaths due to natural disasters

Sounding a note of caution, a United Nations report touted the Asia-Pacific region as the world’s most disaster-prone region, accounting for 91 per cent of the world’s deaths due to natural disasters in the last century.

Mumbai figured twice in the study for being among the six cities, that also includes Kolkata, that will be exposed to coastal flooding by the 2070s and also for faring worse in its waste disposal management, with 12 per cent being burnt openly, jeopardising the health of millions of residents.

The report prepared with over a 1,203 scientists, hundreds of institutions and more than 160 governments involved, also noted the Asia-Pacific region for its acute contamination of water sources by human and industrial waste, including pharmaceutical and personal care, resulting in the consumption of water contaminated by human feces by about 30 per cent of the population.

Water-related diseases and unsafe water contribute to 1.8 million deaths annually and 24.8 million disability-adjusted life years in the region as well, the report added.

The assessment comes ahead of the United Nations Environment Asse-mbly and has six separate reports giving details of environmental issues affecting each of the world’s six regions — the Pan-European region, North America, Asia and the Pacific, West Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa.

“Asia-Pacific continues to be the world’s most disaster prone region,” said the report titled Global Environmental Out-look (GEO-6): Regional Assessments released by the United Nations Environment Programme.

“Approximately 41 per cent of all natural disasters reported over the last two decades occurred in the region. The number of record-breaking rainfall events increased in the region by 56 per cent over the 1981-2010 period,” the report said.

While noting that population growth, rapid urbanization, rising levels of consumption, desertification, land degradation and climate change in all regions has led to severe water scarcity, for Asia-Pacific it pointed out that “unprecedented economic growth” is putting heavy pressure on the ecosystems even though it lifted millions out of poverty.

The report also flagged that deforestation and waste were other reasons threatening the environment in the Asia-Pacific region. “Uncontrolled dumping, which is still the main waste disposal method in the region, is also a major source of disease. In Mumbai, for example, about 12 per cent of total municipal solid waste is burned either openly on the streets or in landfills, a practice that releases black carbon, dioxins and carcinogenic furans,” the report points out, adding, “In Southeast Asia, the average area deforested annually is more than one million hectares, resulting in the release of hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide every year (between 2005 and 2015).”

“These worrying trends (across the world) are also making it increasingly hard for the world to feed itself,” the report warned, adding, “Increasing unsustainable consumption patterns have led to worsening air pollution, water scarcity and waste generation, threatening human and environmental health. Increased demand for fossil fuels and natural resources - extensive agriculture, palm oil and rubber plantations, aquaculture and the illegal trade in wildlife – are causing environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.”

UNEP’s executive director Achim Steiner said: “Today, thanks to this report, we now know more about the state of the world’s environment than ever before. With these assessments, UNEP has presented the world with the very latest evidence on the state of the world’s environment, providing them with the tools they need anticipate and avoid the damage that is being done to our planet,” adding, “If current trends continue and the world fails to enact solutions that improve current patterns of production and consumption, if we fail to use natural resources sustainably, then the state of the world’s environment will continue to decline. It is essential that we understand the pace of environmental change that is upon us and that we start to work with nature instead of against it to tackle the array of environmental threats that face us.”

The report recommended encouraging “sustainable consumption and production” to reduce environmental pressures, implementation of measures to reduce pollution, investment in environmentally sound.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi