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  Channel NewsAsia 26 Oct 07
Asia experiencing exponential rise in environmental problems: UNESCAP

BANGKOK : Asia is seeing an exponential rise in environmental problems, according to the latest review by UNESCAP - the United Nations Environment Programme.

By 2025, coastal areas in Asia as well as many large cities will suffer the severe effects of global warming and rising sea levels.

The problems are likely to affect some 6 billion people, according to the latest United Nations outlook for the global environment.

Among the negative elements are degradation of air and water quality, climate change, disappearance of ecosystems and extinction of species.

Ironically, many of these problems are linked to rapid economic development.

In the decade from 1990 to 2001, the economic expansion of India and China lifted almost 250 million people out of poverty, but that fast pace of expansion also propelled energy use in Asia to an 88 percent increase, more than double the global average of 36 percent.

Professor Murari Lal, Member, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said, "The pace of the progress has to be accelerated now, because of the additional threat, not only from climate change, but the socio-economic pressures and the pace of development, if you want to give a better livelihood, a better living standard for our people in this region in this part of the world."

The report urges governments to formulate policies that counter the negative aspects of rapid growth.

Rae Kwon Chung, Director, Division of Environment and Sustainable Development, UNESCAP, said, "Any growth is not good. Growth has to be greened. So we have to now focus on the quality of growth, not just the quantity of growth. But unfortunately all the politicians, all the governments in the whole world are still obsessed about the number, how much percentage you grow last year."

Besides governments, the report also urges the private sector to help minimise the undesirable effects of rapid development.

Experts say that society is reaching a tipping point as environmental issues become politically important and public awareness grows.

But acknowledging the problem is not enough; climate change remains a persistent challenge, and unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced 60 to 80 percent by 2050 in developed countries, global warming could cause widespread, irreversible damage. - CNA/ms

UNESCAP website
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