Pollution and Health
The scholarly literature on poverty and the environment in Latin American cities is surprisingly thin, compared to the number of studies done on Asian cities, or on rural poverty and the environment in Latin America. Even UNEP’s 1995 publication Poverty and the Environment spent only a few pages on urban issues. In both rural and urban settings, common explanations for urban environmental degradation involve breakdown of property rights institutions, overconsumption in one part of system, or technological failure. These explanations miss the mark without historical and political appreciation of how the allocation of social goods “really works,” under what conditions rules are and are not enforced, and what political factors affect the deployment of technical capacity.
A critical issue focus is the supply and quality of freshwater. Air pollution and waste disposal also tend to affect the poor more than the wealthy, because less salubrious areas have lower property values and are more accessible. The wealthy can also more easily demand abatement measures. Polluting industries also endanger the welfare of the poor, and are growing much faster in developing countries than in developed ones.
A villa miseria outside Buenos Aires, Argentina, may have the worst feng shui in the world: it is built in a flood zone over a former lake, a toxic dump, and a cemetery. Then there's the barrio perched precariously on stilts over the excrement-clogged Pasig River in Manila, Philippines, and the bustee in Vijayawada, India, that floods so regularly that residents have door numbers written on pieces of furniture. In slums the world over, squatters trade safety and health for a few square meters of land. They are pioneers of swamps, floodplains, volcano slopes, unstable hillsides, desert fringes, railroad sidings, rubbish mountains, and chemical dumps -- unattractive and dangerous sites that have become poverty's niche in the ecology of the city.
This article was originally published in OrionOnline.
Leaders from the United States, Europe and developing nations have
already agreed that reducing poverty must be a central element of the
plan. But the question of how to do that and to ensure the survival of
the globe's natural resources has left rich and poor nations bitterly
divided. The dispute is likely to dominate the political negotiations
here. In this continent of immense natural beauty and desperate
poverty, the debate could hardly be more relevant.
Out-of-date policies are undermining unprecedented opportunities for recent aid commitments to improve the environment and combat poverty, according to scientists at a new global research centre launched today. The warning comes from the STEPS Centre, whose urgently needed new approach to development aims to respond to 21st century conditions.
With some 60 per cent of the planet's ecosystem currently being degraded by human activities, the global community must take speedy action or else face a future of 6 billion people “scratching around trying to survive,” the head of the United Nations environmental agency said today.
“In the end we are all facing poverty if we fail to address environmental decline, if we fail to reinvest in nature’s capital,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Klaus Toepfer told the opening session of a three-day brainstorming seminar at the London School of Economics on how to mainstream environment in pro-poor development strategies.
ADB has approved a US$33.1 million loan to promote the generation of clean renewable energy from agricultural biomass wastes in the People's Republic of China (PRC).
The Efficient Utilization of Agricultural Wastes Project will help clean up the environment, promote economic growth, and reduce poverty by encouraging biomass-based systems on farms in the provinces of Henan, Hubei, Jiangxi, and Shanxi.
Biomass technology uses rural waste products such as farm household waste, crop straw and residues and animal droppings. These wastes are presently disposed of inappropriately, causing emission of greenhouse gases, and air, land, and water pollution.
Indoor air pollution causes 1.6 million premature deaths every year and afflicts nearly half of the world's population, predominantly the rural poor. This makes it the second leading environmental health threat in the world and a critical barrier to poverty alleviation in low-income countries. Yet this issue is rarely discussed outside of public health circles, probably because the health consequences of indoor air pollution are not immediate and can be difficult to trace. Thus, indoor air pollution remains a quiet and neglected killer, with lack of global awareness being one of the primary obstacles to the widespread implementation of existing, proven interventions.
Poor sanitation, hygiene, and unsafe water claim the lives of more than a million children under the age of five every year. The estimated 2.6 billion people without access to proper sanitation are vulnerable to disease, malnutrition, poverty, and death.
To focus attention on what it has deemed a global crisis, the United Nations has declared 2008 the International Year of Sanitation. According to Sha Zukang, UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, “Sanitation is not a dirty word; it is a critical factor in human welfare and sustainable development. We need to put the spotlight on this silent crisis.”