Air pollution taking its toll in Asia, say experts

MANILA: Pollution in the skies over Asia's booming cities is responsible for 500,000 deaths each year and the working lives of many are shortened by health problems from breathing filthy air, experts said yesterday. 

Kathmandu now tops a list of 17 Asian cities with the dirtiest air, followed by New Delhi, according to a World Bank report presented at a conference titled Better Air Quality

Jakarta and Chongqing, China's second largest city, share third place. 

Chris Hoban, acting World Bank director for the Philippines, said every 1,000 people in urban East Asia and the Pacific lose more than 12 productive years due to disability caused by air pollution. 

But the situation can improve – and is – through better air quality management by governments backed by greater awareness of the problem. 

Hoban cited the case of Bangkok, where the visibility at the city's airport improved from about five kilometres in 1996 to nine kilometres in 2000. 

In Dhaka, the phase-out of two-stroke engines on motorcycle taxis has slashed concentrations of fine, airborne particulate matter by 41%, he said. 

People are demanding cleaner air and there is a shift towards longer-term solutions.  

The private sector is getting involved and regional initiatives to control air quality are on the upswing, said Geert van der Linden, vice-president of the Asian Development Bank. 

“These trends, together with rapid developments in technology, which can substantially reduce pollution from stationary and mobile sources gives us reason to be optimistic that air quality in Asia will improve in the years to come,” he said. – AP  

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