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UN Environment Executive Director Appreciates India’s Innovation To Tackle Pollution

"Policy innovation is important as well, and we have seen India excel here, not least with a major announcement to ban single-use plastics by 2022,"

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Every technological, scientific social and policy innovation is a welcome addition to domestic and global efforts to beat plastic pollution." Pixabay

It’s encouraging to see innovation — a key to tackling pollution — coming from all corners, especially developing countries like India, UN Environment acting Executive Director Joyce Msuya has said.

This is innovation in many forms, not just gleaming new technology like electric vehicles. Social innovation is important, like citizen-led movements to clean up pollution such as that led by Afroz Shah, who is engaged in one of the world’s largest beach cleaning operations in Mumbai.

“Policy innovation is important as well, and we have seen India excel here, not least with a major announcement to ban single-use plastics by 2022,” Msuya told IANS in an interview in run-up to the Fourth UN Environment Assembly here March 11-15.

Negotiations at the annual assembly are expected to tackle critical issues such as stopping food waste, promoting the decarbonisation of economies, tackling the crisis of plastic pollution in oceans, among many other pressing challenges.

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Praising India’s commitment to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022, the UN Environment acting chief said: “India’s announcement that it will eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022 is a tremendous move by the government.” Pixabay

Msuya, a Tanzanian microbiologist and environmental scientist, believes everyone can contribute to solutions to pollution.

Policy directions from the government, like India’s single-use plastic ban, help set the tone for businesses and encourages them to develop sustainable solutions, she said.

At the same time, upward pressure from individuals changing their habits and civil society campaigns force businesses to provide the non-polluting products that consumers demand.

Praising India’s commitment to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022, the UN Environment acting chief said: “India’s announcement that it will eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022 is a tremendous move by the government.”

“This unprecedented action will reduce plastic waste from 1.3 billion people in the fastest growing economy in the world. India is setting the bar high with this bold announcement.”

On World Environment Day on June 6, 2018, India pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic items like carry bags, straws and water bottles by 2022, the year coinciding with 75 years of the country’s independence.

The annual average per capita consumption of plastic in India is at 11 kg as against global average of 28 kg.

Single-use plastic ban and improving recycling technology are simply two tools in the same toolbox.

“There is no one answer to environmental challenges like this, and we need a comprehensive approach. For example, the UN Environment recently announced a project with Japan that will identify sources of plastic pollution in the Ganga river.

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This is innovation in many forms, not just gleaming new technology like electric vehicles. VOA

“This is the first time such a survey will have ever been done, and the knowledge we gain will help us better understand the problem. We need to be working across all areas. Every technological, scientific social and policy innovation is a welcome addition to domestic and global efforts to beat plastic pollution,” an optimistic Msuya said.

On smog becoming an annual affair in New Delhi every winter, she said Indian cities, like a number of others around the world, are suffering from poor air quality.

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“This is a global public health emergency. Living in cities should not mean living fewer years, or losing cognitive capabilities, or reducing the quality of life of our children,” said Msuya, who has visited and lived in cities chafing under the dark clouds of haze and smog.

For her, there is no magic fix. A range of actions must be taken by individuals, city authorities and governments, and these should be based on science. (IANS)

Next Story

13 Million in Congo Suffer from ‘Hunger’ and ‘Malnutrition’: UN

U.N. is appealing for $1.65 billion in humanitarian aid for the country this year - more than double the $700 million plus that it raised last year to help 8.5 million people

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FILE - A Congolese boy has his arm measured for malnutrition in a clinic run by medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres in the remote town of Dubie in Congo's southeastern Katanga province, March 18, 2006. VOA

The number of people needing humanitarian aid in Congo has increased dramatically in the past year to 13 million and “hunger and malnutrition have reached the highest level on record,” the head of the U.N. children’s agency said Monday.

UNICEF’s Executive Director Henrietta Fore told a news conference that 7.5 million of those needing aid are children, including 4 million suffering from acute malnutrition and over 1.4 million from severe acute malnutrition “which means that they are in imminent risk of death.”

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, who just returned from a visit to Congo with Fore, said the U.N. is appealing for $1.65 billion in humanitarian aid for the country this year – more than double the $700 million plus that it raised last year to help 8.5 million people.

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U.N. is appealing for $1.65 billion in humanitarian aid for the country this year. Pixabay

He said the worsening humanitarian situation is the result of economic stresses including volatility in commodity prices and the turbulent political situation surrounding December’s elections, compounded by violence, increased displacement and the world’s second-largest Ebola outbreak. Fore added that farmers fleeing with their families and drought in some areas also contributed.

She said the difficulty is that last year’s U.N. appeal was only half funded, and if that same amount is contributed this year it will only be a quarter of this year’s appeal, “and the needs are immense.”

Fore cited more grim statistics: 2 million people were newly displaced last year; 7.3 million children are out of school; 300,000 children die each year before their fifth birthday; 3 in 10 women are reported to be victims of sexual violence; and in January alone there were 7,000 cases of measles and 3,500 cases of cholera.

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UNICEF and its partners are providing psycho-social support, food and material assistance to the children, she said. Pixabay

Congo’s Health Ministry said Monday that the Ebola epidemic has now exceeded 1,000 cases, with a death toll of 629.

Fore said about 30 percent of the cases are children, and UNICEF has identified about 1,000 children who have been orphaned or left unaccompanied while their parents are isolated in Ebola treatment wards.

UNICEF and its partners are providing psycho-social support, food and material assistance to the children, she said.

In the major city of Bunia close to the epidemic’s center, Fore said U.N. and Red Cross officials visited a kindergarten where Ebola survivors who cannot get the virus were caring for orphaned and unaccompanied children.

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Congo’s Health Ministry said Monday that the Ebola epidemic has now exceeded 1,000 cases, with a death toll of 629. Pixabay

The U.N. officials also visited Goma, Beni and Butembo and the capital Kinshasa where Lowcock said they had “extremely constructive talks” with Congo’s new president, Felix Tshisekedi.

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“We were encouraged by the new president” who said he would like to work closely with the U.N. on humanitarian issues and problems related to the millions of displaced people, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs said.

“Congo is a country where progress is possible,” Lowcock said, pointing to lower infant mortality, more children in school and Kinshasa becoming a modern African capital. (VOA)