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Tackling worsening air quality top priority for Sri Lanka: WHO

ECONOMYNEXT – Improving air quality must be a top health and development priority in countries of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Southeast Asia region including Sri Lanka, as increasing air pollution levels are putting the health of billions of people at risk.

A new global report on trends in air quality shows that the levels of urban air pollution in the region have increased by over 5 percent in more than two-thirds of our cities, a WHO statement said.

“We have overwhelming evidence of the impact of air pollution on stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases,” it said.

“Globally, in 2012, air pollution in urban areas is estimated to have caused 3.7 million deaths, with more than one-third reported from the Southeast Asian region.”

Although awareness is rising, the WHO said, there is an urgent need to address the problem and implement evidence-based interventions.

Transportation, power plants, biomass burning and ambient dust are major contributors to particulate air pollution, it said.

“In an urban setting, vehicular emissions are an important consideration, particularly with populations living in close proximity to roads.”

 The WHO said the problem of air pollution can only be addressed through multi-sectoral cooperation.

“The increasing use of clean energy such as LPG, renewable power sources like solar and wind, and prioritizing public transportation, walking and cycling amenities in cities are among a number of affordable strategies that can be adopted.”

The energy, transport, environmental and health sectors need to intensify their work together to prevent any further impact, the WHO said.

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More and more cities are now measuring air quality levels, which in itself is an indication that governments are recognizing air pollution as a problem.

WHO’s Southeast Asia region comprises 11 Member States: Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
(COLOMBO, May 19 2016)
 

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