Chochoe Devaporihartakula – A Clean and Green Asia Needs Compliance and Transparency

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Oct 30, 2017
by Chochoe Devaporihartakula
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Chochoe Devaporihartakula – A Clean and Green Asia Needs Compliance and Transparency

Program manager for the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) shares her vision to urgently address and reduce air pollution in Asia Unhealthy levels of air pollution affect the lives of millions living in Asian mega-cities like Shangai, pictured, writes Chochoe Devaporihartakula

Devaporihartakula will be a participant at the upcoming session in the series The Asia We Want: Building Community Through Regional Cooperation. All participants were invited to share their own vision for “the Asia we want.”

Urbanization is increasingly perceived as a serious issue that threatens to undermine recent advances towards sustainable development in Asia. Currently, 48 percent of the population in Asia is living in urban areas and is expected to grow to 64 percent by 2050 according to the United Nations. The highest rate of urban population growth is predicted to take place in Asia and Africa, which will have significant consequences on natural resources, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, while air pollution levels attributable to urban development already far exceed World Health Organization (WHO) standards and are likely to rise substantially in the coming decades.

While other regions are exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution, Asia accounts for the largest share of ambient PM2.5 and is responsible for millions of deaths. In Southeast Asia, urban air pollution is ranked among the highest in the world with many cities showing pollution levels five to 10 times above WHO limits. Those of us who live in Southeast Asia’s mega-cities know that air pollution is a problem. But the public is only now beginning to learn just how dangerous this problem has become. A recent study by the University of Chicago found that air pollution is shortening the lives of Vietnamese citizens by 1.16 years. Earlier this year, Harvard University and Greenpeace estimated that air pollution from the region’s coal-fired power plants could be killing 20,000 people per year. It is often the poor who suffer disproportionately from environmental health risks associated with air pollution effects.

The Asia we want can only be made clean and green by ensuring the effectiveness of environmental compliance and increasing transparency and accountability of all stakeholders. Every country has limited resources that must be used effectively to foster greater compliance with the law and improved protection for people and the environment. National governments, city officials, local communities, and regional cooperation through networks such as the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network (AECEN) must collaborate to make sure steps are taken in order to regulate and monitor pollution sources at the very early stage. This would ensure fewer polluting sources, reduced health impacts, more efficient economic growth, and greater economic returns to the country. Most Asian countries currently lack advanced technology used for pollution monitoring. Therefore, proper mechanisms such as prioritizing high risk threats through regulations, incentive programs to motivate compliance, and advanced technology for more accurate and less expensive monitoring can help all countries leap forward in the effectiveness of their compliance and enforcement efforts.

Dealing with air pollution is a global challenge but the good news is that during the first Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment held in Bangkok in September 2017, 30 countries in Asia-Pacific committed to move towards a clean and green Asia-Pacific with highlights on the urgency of addressing environmental health risks associated with pollution and promoting resource efficiency measures and practices. Let’s hope and see if this initiative can really lead to sustainable urban development and nature-based solutions – and not just another commitment that is left on the shelf.

Chochoe Devaporihartakula is the program manager for the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the Training Event Specialist for the Regional Resource Center for Asia and the Pacific at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT).


Session 591 - The Asia We Want: Building Community Through Regional Cooperation I - A Clean and Green Asia - is the first session of a new multi-year series held in partnership with the Japan Foundation. For more information on the Session, please click here. To keep up to date with the conversations taking place during the session on social media, follow #SGSasia.

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