The region is ageing rapidly, has the largest number of threatened species and more
The UN Environment Programme’s 2016 report—Global Environment Outlook: Regional Assessment for Asia and the Pacific—identifies some disturbing trends:
- Between 1990 and 2014 natural disasters affecting 4.5 billion people caused US $1,076 billion economic losses.
- Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions have reduced, but ambient concentrations of ozone and fine particles (short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon) have continued to increase. Trans-boundary smoke haze due to open biomass burning and improper land-use is becoming the key regional air quality problem in Southeast Asia.
- The region has about 60 per cent of the world population. In mid-2014 its population was 4.367 billion. Good news is that the overall growth rate for Asia and the Pacific for 2010–2015 was lower than the global rate and is expected to decline further. But the world’s highest sex-ratio imbalance in favour of males also occurs in this region.
- Fertility in the region as a whole has fallen to 2.1 births per woman in 2010–2015. This lower fertility, together with increased life expectancy, is leading to a rapidly ageing population.
- Of the 2 billion hectares of dry land in Asia, more than half are affected by desertification. Major dust storms occur when prolonged drought causes the soil surface to lose moisture and strong winds blow.
- Land degradation has been intensified over most of the region, with consequent displacement of indigenous people, loss of biodiversity, and reduction in important forest products. While total forest area has increased in Asia since 1990, there is continuous loss of wilderness and natural forest systems.
- The Asia and the Pacific region has the world’s largest number of threatened species. The number of threatened mammal and plant species in the region increased by more than 10 and 18 per cent respectively in the last decade. Three-quarters of all threatened birds on oceanic islands are also threatened by invasive species.
- Water-related diseases and unsafe water contribute to 1.8 million deaths annually and 24.8 million disability-adjusted life years in the region.
- The region hosts more than 30 million migrant workers. Main source countries are Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam.
- The Asia and the Pacific region is one of the largest generators of e-waste owing to the presence of China, Japan and India, three of the top five e-waste-generating countries in the world (together with the US and Germany). China, Japan and India generated 6 million tonnes, 2.2 million tonnes and 1.7 million tonnes respectively in 2014.
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