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Countries may defeat poverty, but earth suffers: report
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 25 - 10 - 2007


"Remarkable" progress has been made in the Asian-
Pacific region to reduce poverty, but it came at a price to the
environment, the Global Environment Outlook said Thursday, according to dpa.
China and India, the world's two most populous countries, have
lifted 250 million people out of the mass of those living on less
than 1 dollar a day thanks to the countries' sustained economic
growth over the years, said the fourth edition of the report by the
UN Environment Programme.
The Asian-Pacific region is home to 60 per cent of the world's
population of more than 6.6 billion.
The increase in consumption and associated waste in that region
has driven up the levels of environmental problems, affecting urban
air quality, fresh water and agricultural land use, the report said.
As part of its economic development, Asia has been the destination
of the illegal traffic of discarded electronic equipment and
hazardous waste for recycling.
The report said 90 per cent of the estimated 20 to 50 tons of
electronic waste produced around the world ended up in Bangladesh,
China, India, Myanmar and Pakistan for recycling as it has become
easier to buy new equipment than repair broken ones.
"E-waste has become an important health and environmental issue,"
the report said. Workers recycling electronic goods are exposed to
lead, mercury and cadmium, which are toxic to humans and damaging to
the environment.
The report decried the lack of effective waste management in many
countries in the Asian-Pacific region as they pursue economic
development at top speed at the expense of the environment.
In Africa, the report said social and economic performance has
recently progressed and the continent now has the chance to meet some
of the United Nations targets in the Millennium Development Goals,
one of which is to halve the number of poor by 2015.
But as in other regions, African land is under pressure from
demands for resources from the growing population. The land is also
subject to natural disasters like drought and flooding, and the
technological use of chemicals and fertilizers.
"Land degradation not only threatens livelihoods but also puts at
risk forests, fresh water, coastal and marine resources, and help
deserts spread," the report said.
Land degradation diminishes agricultural products in Africa, where
per capita food production is now 12 per cent less than it was in
1981, while the need for food has increased across the continent. The
degradation is worsened by the maintenance of agricultural subsidies
in developed countries, which put African agricultural products at a
disadvantage, the report said.
"For some of the world's problems, the damage may already be
irreversible," it said.
"Tackling the underlying causes of environmental pressures often
affects the vested interests of powerful groups able to influence
policy decisions," it said.
It called on policy makers to make environmentally related
decisions for development, "not development to the detriment of the
environment."
Latin America and the Caribbean should set priorities in solving
problems in their teeming cities and the disappearing wildlife if the
region is to achieve a sustainable future based on a less unequal
society, the report said.
It said the region has the world's "worst income inequality," with
39 per cent of urban families living below the poverty line, defined
as a person living on less than 1 dollar a day.
The region has very high biological and cultural diversity, with
more than 400 indigenous groups, and the Amazonia alone contains
about half the world's biodiversity.
But the Global Environment Outlook said deforestation, land
degradation and coastal damage has been widespread. It said 15.7 per
cent of the whole region is affected by land degradation caused by
water and in some places by wind erosion.


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