Asian and Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 5 March 2023
People in Asia and the Pacific are experiencing poor air quality not only because of burning unsustainable sources of energy such as fossil fuels but also due to high exposure to sand and dust storms. There are promising collaborations at the regional level such as the Asia-Pacific Regional Action Programme on Air Pollution (RAPAP) and the Regional Plan of Action on Sand and Dust Storms in Asia and the Pacific which can contribute to countries’ efforts in achieving clean air for all.
APDIM contributed to the High-Level Forum on Clean Air held on 2 and 3 March 2023 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The Forum, organized by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), brought together high-level representatives from governments, national experts, representatives from multilateral and subregional mechanisms and academic networks on air pollution, and experts from research, academic institutions, CSOs and other stakeholder groups.
On the first day of the Forum, APDIM Director, Ms Letizia Rossano, talked about the risk of sand and dust storms in Asia and the Pacific as one of the largest contributors to air quality degradation in the region. She shared the findings of the APDIM risk assessment of the impact of Sand and Dust Storms in the region and invited ESCAP member States to collaborate in the implementation of the Regional Plan of Action on Sand and Dust Storms in Asia and the Pacific which was endorsed by the 78th session of the ESCAP Commission in May 2022. Sand and dust storms are not only harmful to human health but also negatively impact socio-economic sectors including agriculture, energy, environment, transport, etc. According to the APDIM Risk Assessment, over 80 per cent of the entire populations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are exposed to some levels of poor air quality due to sand and dust storms. The assessment estimated that nearly 60 million people living in cities in southwestern Asia experienced more than 170 dusty days in 2019.
Air pollution has a large impact on human health and ecosystems and is the most important global environmental cause of premature deaths. The latest update of the WHO Air Quality Guidelines (2021) states that 7 million people worldwide annually die prematurely of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases that are attributable to ambient and household air pollution. The greatest number (two-thirds) of these premature deaths occurred in the South-East Asian and Western Pacific regions, as defined by the WHO.