Bangkok, 9 August 2007 - Ministers and high level officials of environment and health in South-East and East Asian countries today endorsed the Bangkok Declaration on Environment and Health in a collective effort to reduce the estimated 6.6 million deaths in Asia each year attributable to various environmental health risks. The death toll is approximately 25% of all deaths in the region.
The First Ministerial Regional Forum on Environment and Health was held between 8th and 9th of August 2007. The High level meeting on the 8th was a forum to review national activities and the Regional Work Plans. The Ministerial meeting held on the 9th commenced with a scientific segment chaired by Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn.
Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn, President of the Chulabhorn Research Institute, gives importance to environmental health issues that are a concern in the Asia-Pacific region, including air pollution and in particular carcinogenic air pollutants. In addition, to address the long-term capacity of the region to address the environmental health issues it faces, the Chulabhorn Research Institute is committed to utilizing its linkages to world–renowned institutions and experts in the fields of environmental science and human health, as well as its network of research collaborators, to assist countries in the region in the development of human resources and capacity building.
The Ministerial meeting which endorsed the Bangkok Declaration, aimed to strengthen cooperation between ministries responsible for environment and health within countries and across the region. The Bangkok Declaration will provide a mechanism for sharing knowledge and experiences, improve policy and regulatory frameworks at the national and regional level, and promote the implementation of integrated environmental health strategies and regulations.
"The Bangkok Declaration takes us a firm step forward from monitoring and assessment of sectoral issues towards the prevention of health impacts," said Surendra Shrestha, Regional Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Over the last 50 years, environmental pollution has intensified due to rapid industrialization, urbanization and motorization, resulting in urban air pollution, the generation of solid and hazardous wastes, and numerous man-made disasters and emergencies.
"The region's high death toll from environmental degradation can be avoided if we are determined to reverse the current trend," said Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. "Solving environmental health problems requires collaboration between health and environmental sectors. We need to strengthen our collective commitment to priority environmental health challenges in the region."
Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia said "The increasing numbers of cross-cutting global environmental initiatives are invitations for mainstreaming health concern into multisectoral cooperation, however, within this multisectoral environment, the role of health ministries would need to be expanded to face the increasing challenges of the collaborative process of integrating health and environment in national development."
Incorporated in the Bangkok Declaration is a regional Charter aimed at helping Southeast and East Asian countries develop joint policies and programmes on environment and health.
The regional Charter identified six environmental and health priorities over the next three years, namely:
• air quality
• water supply, hygiene and sanitation
• solid and hazardous waste
• toxic chemicals and hazardous substances
• climate change, ozone depletion and ecosystem change
• contingency planning, preparedness and response to environmental health emergencies
A regional thematic working group has been established for each priority area.
Dr. Vallop Thainuea, Deputy Minister for Thailand's Ministry of Public Health said:
"Since the capacities of countries in the region to deal with environmental health problems are limited, we need to have better intersectoral coordination. Harmonized policy responses need to be formulated for the transboundary environmental risk to health. Consequently, there is the need for an integrated management of health and environmental issues in the region."
The ministers agreed to actively share information and contribute their resources to the protection of the environment and health at the local, national, regional and global level.
"Protection of health and environment is vital for sustainable development. A strong and thriving economy will alleviate poverty and provide a better quality of life." Dr. Supat Wangwongwatana, Director General of Pollution Control Department of Thailand's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said yesterday. "Not only is it important that our environmental agencies and health agencies integrate their work, it is also necessary to form partnerships among the countries in our region."
A Second Ministerial Regional Forum is planned in 2010 to review the progress in implementing the regional Charter.
The Ministerial Regional Forum was attended by environment and health ministers and high level officials from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. Representatives from the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and the World Bank also attended the meeting.
The meeting was jointly organized by the United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and the WHO Regional Offices for South-East Asia and the Western Pacific, and hosted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ministry of Public Health of the Government of Thailand and the Chulabhorn Research Institute.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Surendra Shreastha, UNEP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, at 66(2)2881870; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Hisashi Ogawa, WHO Regional Adviser in Environmental Health, at +63(2)528-9886 (landline); +63-9209524203 (mobile); or e-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org