Gas chambers

Air pollution levels rise drastically in Asia; push health costs

Published: Sunday 30 September 2001

Air pollution in Asia has worsened since 2000, and is responsible for the death of thousands of people in Beijing, Jakarta, Seoul, Bangkok and Manila. This was revealed during a research conducted by the World Bank and the Stockholm Development Institute (sdi). The research states that air pollution in the continent has now far surpassed the combined emissions in Europe and North America. The deaths caused by fine particulate matter far exceed those caused by sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone and lead. The health cost in major Asian cities now account for 15-18 per cent of the urban income expenditure, claim World Bank officials.

The pollution is a result of the use of fossil fuels by the industry and transport sectors. The problem has got aggravated in Asia due to the use of low quality fuel, inefficient methods of energy production, use of vehicles in poor condition and traffic congestion. Its adverse impacts are many. In Manila alone, more than 4,000 Filipinos die every year due to respiratory illnesses. The mortality figure is the third-highest for a city in the east Asian region after Beijing and Jakarta. Beside the deaths, 90,000 residents of Manila suffer from severe chronic bronchitis, costing the government seven per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in terms of health cost. In India, over 40,000 people die every year due to air pollution.

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