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Increased economic development has led to rapid urbanization in the Asia and Pacific countries. The region now holds about 58 percent of total world population and 45 per cent of the world’s urban population. Between 1980 and 2002, the region’s urban population more than doubled from 646 million to 1 333 million (GEO Data Portal based on United Nations 2005b).
Rapid urbanization and industrialization, and the associated increase in fossil fuel use, have intensified urban air pollution in the Asia-Pacific region (Box 2 of Feature Focus, page 43) and increased the region’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. In 1990 the region produced 435 million tonnes (eight per cent) more CO2 than North America. By 2002, the disparity had grown to 2 628 million tonnes (41 percent more) (Figure 4). Developing countries, including China, India and the Republic of Korea are not bound by the Kyoto Protocol to any emission reduction targets, while another country in the region, Australia, has not ratified. Therefore, it was significant when, in July 2005, these four countries joined with the US and Japan to launch a New Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (US State Department 2005). The US and China are the first and second largest national emitters of carbon dioxide in the world, while India and Japan are fourth and fifth (Earthtrends 2005).

The partnership does not have any quantitative emission targets, but aims to promote and create an enabling environment for development, diffusion, deployment and transfer of existing and emerging cleaner technologies and practices. These will relate to energy efficiency, clean coal, liquefied natural gas, carbon capture and storage, combined heat and power, methane capture and use, civilian nuclear power, geothermal power, hydropower, wind power, solar power, and other renewables, rural/village energy systems, advanced transportation, and so on. The region is also progressing ahead of target in reducing its consumption of ozone depleting substances (ODS), with funding from the UN Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol and other sources, and technical assistance from UNEP (Figure 5).

Box 1: Avian Influenza
The current outbreak of Avian Influenza H5N1 (bird flu), which originated in Southeast Asia, is spreading to other parts of the world primarily through migratory bird routes. Its major impact so far, however, remains in Southeast Asia. By 31 December there had been been 142 laboratoryconfirmed human cases in five countries (Vietnam, Cambodia,Thailand, Indonesia and China) over the past two years. Of these, 74 people have died.
Though small in absolute numbers, this is the largest number of severe cases of avian influenza in humans on record. This and the 50 per cent human fatality rate have raised fears of a highly lethal pandemic, should the virus mutate to a form that allows ready human-to-human transmission. Not all experts agree that such a mutation is imminent or likely in the particular case of H5N1, but all agree that greater preparedness to prevent and to deal with pandemics is essential. The outbreak among poultry is also the most severe and widespread on record. The virus is easily transmitted both in crowded factory farms, and in the less hygienic conditions of backyard farming and urban informal marketing. Ducks, which in Asia move between backyards and paddy fields where contact with wild birds is easy, present a particular problem. The primary economic impact thus far has been on poultry production and trade. By mid-November more than 150 million poultry had been slaughtered and China was planning to vaccinate its entire flock of over 14 billion birds. By late 2005, economic losses were estimated at US$10 billion and rising. The socio-economic impact of lost flocks and vaccination costs is grave – especially for the low-income backyard farmers who make up the majority of producers. The environmental impacts have yet to be ascertained. Significant culls of domestic birds may stimulate shifts in agricultural production away from poultry to mammals or grains, and from small-scale poultry farming to large scale commercial operations able to afford increased bio-security costs. Loss of income to small scale farmers may trigger efforts to farm more intensively and on more marginal soils, risking lowered water quality and increased rates of soil erosion. In November 2005, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health jointly proposed a global strategy for controlling avian influenza, involving capacity building for disease monitoring, control and policy
development. Also in November, an international meeting hosted by WHO identified a global response strategy ranging from control at source in birds, through surveillance, rapid containment, vaccine production and preparedness of health services for pandemics.
Sources: WHO 2005a, WHO 2005b, WHO 2005c, Normile 2005, MacKenzie 2005, McLeod and others 2005, FAO 2005
Box 2: Pakistan earthquake
A devastating earthquake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, hit the northern part of Pakistan on the morning of 8 October 2005. The epicentre was in the Pakistan-administered region of the disputed territory of Kashmir, near the city of Muzaffarabad. Nearly all mountains that flank the city have collapsed in several places. The Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates collide in this region, causing earthquakes. Most of the casualties were in Pakistan where the official death toll has topped 79 000, higher than the 30–60 000 toll of the massive 1935 Quetta earthquake. India has confirmed 1 300 deaths. The toll is expected to continue to rise through the harsh winter. The right image captures a landslide in Makhri, a village on the northern outskirts of Muzaffarabad, on 9 October 2005. The western face of the mountain has collapsed, sending a cascade of whitegrey rock into the Neelum River. The blue waters seen on 15 September 2002 (left) have turned brown with the dirt from landslides upstream. The landslide forced the Neelum to shift its course. The damage to the city is not visible, even in this detailed image, but the media report that the city has nearly been destroyed. Sources: Ambraseys and Bilham 2003, Bilham 2005, NASA 2005, USGS 2005
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