Vehicle emissions 'cost Arab countries $5bn'
Dubai, November 11, 2008
Growing air pollution from the transport sector alone cost Arab countries dearly as they spend more than $5 billion to fight health problems caused by vehicle emissions, said the UAE’s Minister of Environment and Water.
Dr Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad was speaking today (November 11) at the opening session of the EnviroCities 2008 International Conference organised jointly by Dubai Municipality and the Environment Centre for Arab Towns in cooperation with the Harvard School of Public Health.
The 3-day conference is being held under the title “Sources and Health Effects of Air Pollution: Knowledge to Practice” at Al Bustan Rotana Hotel.
Quoting a report titled 'Arab Environment: Future Challenges,' issued recently by the Arab Environment and Development Forum, the minister said the Arab countries suffered immensely from the impacts of both primary and secondary air pollutants that led to an increase in respiratory diseases, skin diseases and eye-infections.
'Its impact has not just been limited to human health alone, but it has also affected agricultural lands, forests, water channels, and marine environment. Some of the lakes in our countries have turned into acid quagmires and been rendered unlivable due to high pollution levels. The economy has also suffered a lot in the shape of a gradual destruction in infrastructure, electrical installations, iron structures…etc.,' said Dr Bin Fahad.
He noted that that according to national and international reports on air pollution, while the developed world spends nearly two per cent of their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for repairing the impact of air pollution, the developing world spends more than five per cent of its GDP to fight these problems. This cost is calculated in the form of deaths, chronic diseases, medical care and a decrease in production.
The risks from growing pollution levels in the UAE, he added, underscore the need to develop the existing laws, standards and specifications for controlling air pollution in the country in order to face this threat.
'We should also adopt the most modern techniques in monitoring, controlling and managing air pollution, and conduct more in-depth researches and studies to identify the health, social and economic impact of air pollution so that decision makers can rely on them for the future plans,' he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Hussain Nasser Lootah, acting director general of Dubai Municipality, said air pollution has become one of the most serious issues of the modern era as it affects human health and his production capacity. He noted that the World Health Organisation has estimated in a report in 2000 that the number of deaths due to air pollution-related diseases as three million every year. This accounts for five per cent of the total deaths annually.
He said the EnviroCities Conference, which is now scheduled to be held biennially, would encourage coordinated efforts among Arab states as well as internationally to provide solutions for some of the environment and health problems facing our cities.-TradeArabia News Service