Asian nations pledge to tackle health problems linked to environment
THAILAND: Fourteen Asian countries pledged to tackle health
problems related to everything from climate change to air pollution that
cause the deaths of nearly 7 million people each year.
The countries - including economic giants Japan and China but also
impoverished nations such as Laos - agreed Thursday to improve
coordination between their ministries of health and environment, and
work to establish national frameworks to fight environmental health
“We needed political will and we got that today,” said Supat
Wangwongwatana, director general of Thailand’s Pollution Control
Department in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
“Fourteen countries committed to cooperate and work to combat
environmental problems and improve the health of the people,” he said.
“That’s an achievement.”
No money, however, was committed during the two-day meeting - dubbed
the Bangkok Declaration on Environment and Health - nor did the
countries set any specific goals.
Water pollution and hazardous waste were also identified as
environmental problems that impact people’s health.
The ministerial forum, the first of its kind in the region, comes as
a growing number of health problems are being linked to environmental
changes, especially global warming associated with greenhouse gases.
The World Health Organization estimates climate change has already
directly or indirectly killed more than 1 million people globally since
2000. Another 800,000 deaths worldwide each year have been linked to air
Last month, health officials from more than a dozen countries
gathered in Malaysia to hear how rising temperatures were sparking more
deadly landslides in Nepal, a rise in dengue fever cases throughout
Asia, and increased flooding in India and Bangladesh.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. network of
2,000 scientists, predicted earlier this year that droughts caused by
rising temperatures will lower crop yields and raise malnutrition in
some areas, and spark a surge in diseases such as diarrhea.
People living in low-lying coastal areas will also face more storms,
flooding, and saltwater intrusion into fresh groundwater that is vital
for drinking, it said.
The ministers said environment and health problems had previously
been tackled separately by most countries, but with Thursday’s
declaration they hoped that would change.
“Since the capacities of countries in the region to deal with
environmental problems are limited, we need to have better intersectoral
coordination,” said Vallop Thainuea, an official from Thailand’s
Ministry of Public Health.