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Air pollution

Air quality, especially the concentrations of particulate matter in major Asian cities, is of serious concern. More than 500 000 people die every year from diseases related to air pollution (WHO 2003). In the next few years, governments in the majority of countries in the region intend to address air pollution as their top priority. Measures have been intensified at all levels and include tougher new emission standards aimed at reducing suspended particulate matter, regulations to control air pollution at construction sites, and the introduction of alternative motor vehicle fuel, such as low sulphur diesel, ethanol blended petrol and compressed natural gas (CNG) (Enhesa 2003, CSE 2003). Although measures vary from country to country, most have a clear focus on the motor vehicle sector.

Air pollution is a major environmental issue, particularly in Asian cities, and related diseases kill more than half a million people each year.

Source: Still Pictures

Transboundary air pollution is a concern in Asia, affecting many countries in the region. Successful initiatives undertaken in 2003 to tackle transboundary air pollution included:
the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution in Southeast Asia (Box 3);
a regional programme on establishing a dust and sand storm monitoring and early warning system in Northeast Asia initiated by the Asian Development Bank, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the Asia office of the UNCCD and UNEP, together with governments of China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Mongolia; and
a capacity-building programme, undertaken under Phase II of the Male Declaration, which aims to build national capacities to address issues of transboundary air pollution in South Asia. In-country training programmes, with monitoring equipment, have been provided to six participating countries, namely Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Iran and Bangladesh (UNEP RRC.AP 2003b).

Box 3: Agreement on transboundary haze pollution entered into force

The 2002 Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) entered into force in November 2003. The agreement, signed by the 10 member countries of ASEAN, is the first such regional arrangement in the world that binds a group of contiguous states to tackle transboundary haze pollution resulting from land and forest fires. It contains provisions on monitoring, assessment and prevention of transboundary haze pollution, technical cooperation and scientific research, mechanisms for coordination and communication, and simplified customs and immigration procedures for disaster relief. It also provides for the establishment of an ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control. The agreement may serve as a model for dealing with other transboundary issues.

Source: ASEAN 2003

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