Thursday June 21, 2018

323 Million at Risk of Deadly Diseases from Dirty Water in Asia, Africa and Latin America, says UN Environment Program

It's estimated that up to 164 million people in Africa, 134 million in Asia and 25 million in Latin America were at risk of infection from the diseases

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FILE - A China Railway bullet train travels above a river polluted by leaked fuel in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, April 29, 2015. Image source: VOA
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More than 300 million people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are at risk of life-threatening diseases like cholera and typhoid because of the increasing pollution of water in rivers and lakes, the U.N. Environment Program said Tuesday.

Between 1990 and 2010, pollution caused by viruses, bacteria, and other micro-organisms, and long-lasting toxic pollutants like fertilizer or petrol, increased in more than half of rivers across the three continents, while salinity levels rose in nearly a third, UNEP said in a report.

Population growth, expansion of agriculture and an increased amount of raw sewage released into rivers and lakes were among the main reasons behind the increase of surface water pollution, putting 323 million people at risk of infection, UNEP said.

“The water quality problem at a global scale and the number of people affected by bad water quality are much more severe than we expected,” Dietrich Borchardt, lead author of the report, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

However, a significant number of rivers remain in good condition and need to be protected, he said by phone from Germany.

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About a quarter of rivers in Latin America, 10 percent to 25 percent in Africa and up to 50 percent in Asia were affected by severe pathogen pollution, largely caused by discharging untreated wastewater into rivers and lakes, the report said.

Millions of deaths yearly

About 3.4 million people die each year from diseases or conditions such as cholera, typhoid, polio or diarrhea, which are associated with pathogens in water, UNEP said.

It’s estimated that up to 164 million people in Africa, 134 million in Asia and 25 million in Latin America were at risk of infection from the diseases.

It said building more sewers was not enough to prevent infections and deaths, adding that the solution was to treat wastewater.

Organic pollution, which can cause water to be completely starved of oxygen, affects one of every seven kilometers of rivers (0.6 mile of every 4.4 miles) in Latin America, Africa and Asia, threatening freshwater fisheries, UNEP said.

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Severe and moderate salinity levels, caused by the disposal of salty water from mines, irrigation systems, and homes, affect one in 10 rivers on the three continents, making it harder for poor farmers to irrigate their crops, it said.

The trend of worsening water pollution was “critical,” Borchardt said.

“It is much more expensive to clean up surface water from severe pollution than to implement proper management, which includes prevention of pollution,” he said. “Tools are available but the challenge is to implement them.” (VOA)

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UN Urges Urgent Hearing To Curb Usage Of Plastics

United Nations named plastic one of the biggest environmental threats

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United Nations on Tuesday named plastic one of the biggest environmental threats
United Nations on Tuesday named plastic one of the biggest environmental threats, flickr

Marking World Environment Day, the United Nations on Tuesday named plastic one of the biggest environmental threats facing the world.

The report, Single-Use Plastics: A Roadmap for Sustainability, said while government regulation on the use of plastic has made some impact on reducing waste, it is not enough, and more urgent action is needed.

“Our world is swamped by harmful plastic waste,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a speech. “Microplastics in the seas now outnumber stars in our galaxy.”

“From remote islands to the Arctic, nowhere is untouched. If present trends continue, by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish,” he said.

The report noted that by some estimates, as many as 5 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year.

While acknowledging that combating plastic waste is different for every country, the U.N. report suggested 10 universal steps that policymakers can follow, including use of more eco-friendly alternatives to plastics and the promotion of reusable products.

UN Secretary
UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ press conference with the national and international press to present the results of his visit to Mali and to answer the many questions of journalists.

According to the Ocean Conservancy, 8 million metric tons of plastic enters the Earth’s oceans every year, which adds to the estimated 150 million metric tons already in the marine environment.

A 2017 report by the Ocean Conservancy said China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are dumping more plastic than the rest of the world combined.

But the advocacy group warned that the problem is not Asia’s alone. It noted the United States tosses out more than 33 million tons of plastic, of which less than 10 percent is recycled.

For years, environmentalists have warned of the deadly effect plastic trash has on marine wildlife. This week, a pilot whale died in Thailand after struggling for five days to stay alive. Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources announced that the whale had 80 plastic bags lodged in its stomach.

Also read:  Plastic free Delhi promised EU India

A Thai marine official said the whale, which normally feeds on squid, probably mistook the floating debris for food. (VOA)