Talking about air

Participants at a recent workshop in Hyderabad expressed concern over the growing rate of air pollution in South Asia

Published: Friday 15 October 1999

while a large population in South Asia is at serious health risk from air pollution, the governments and government-run institutions are still struggling to get their act together to deal with the problem. This was felt by most participants at an international workshop on Air Pollution and Health Issues in South Asia held in Hyderabad on August 16-18.

The workshop was organised by the Environment Protection Training and Research Institute, Hyderabad, and sponsored by the Stockholm Environment Institute ( sei ) and the United Nations Environment Programme. The workshop was a follow-up of the Male Declaration on Control and Prevention of Air Pollution and its Likely Transboundary Effects for South Asia, which was signed on April 22, 1998, by environment ministers at the seventh meeting of the Governing Council of South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme.

The common refrain from participants was that the existing epidemiological data collected from small samples was inadequate. The monitoring of air pollutants in most of the cities in the region was also not done on a regular basis, making it difficult to establish the cause-effect relationship between air pollution and health.

Johan Kuylenstierna of sei pointed out that studies among different ethnic groups have shown that people respond to a pollutant in a similar way. This clearly makes a case for falling back on the Western data in the interim period. "Generally people respond to air pollution in much the same way everywhere. If we assume that people are people, then we can transfer the conservative assumptions," said Frank Murray, associate professor, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia.

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