The United Nations Environment Programme report covers 41 countries. About 1.7 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. Almost 80 per cent of wastewater goes into water bodies with serious consequences for health and the environment.
Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than 80 per cent of rivers are polluted in the Asia-Pacific region, whilst about 1.8 million people die every year from water-related diseases, a new United Nations report reveals.
The study, prepared by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) for the second forum of ministers and environment authorities of Asia-Pacific region opening in Bangkok on 5 September, indicates that governments have failed to provide clean water to people and protect the environment.
The study covers 41 countries, focusing on environmental pollution, a well-known problem that has reached a critical stage. These include China (100 million drink poisoned water), India (deadly pollution in the Ganges), Pakistan (largest mass intoxication from arsenic in the Indus River), Bangladesh (43,000 annual deaths), Vietnam (Formosa Plastics coastal pollution), and Thailand (one of the highest rates of plastic dumping in the sea).
According to the study, the most common pollutants in the region are organics, nutrients, dissolved salts, heavy metals, pesticides and chemicals from industrial activities.
The sources of the pollution are untreated or partially treated sewage, agricultural runoff, industrial wastewater and landfill leachate, and nutrient and sediments washed from degraded land by heavy rainfall.
One major cause of water pollution is poor sanitation, including defecation in the open, leading to contamination of surface and groundwater sources by organics, nutrients and bacterial coliform.
Because of political inaction, 1.7 billion people lack access to basic sanitation, and almost 80 per cent of wastewater is discharged in water bodies with little or no primary treatment.
Diseases related to poor water treatment, sanitation and hygiene include intestinal nematode infections, protein-energy malnutrition, trachoma, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis (due to worms usually found in dogs), malaria and dengue.
Another factor affecting human health from water pollution is the accumulation of heavy metal in plants that are then consumed as food, which is closely related to the methods used in irrigating contaminated soil.
Last but not least comes solid waste. Urban areas in the region generate about 1.21 metric tonnes of solid waste a day. By 2025, this amount will be more than double, to 2.65 metric tonnes.
If nothing is done, inadequate treatment of waste will continue to cause pollution as well as environmental and ecosystem degradation. If not properly collected, waste can decay and cause air pollution, unpleasant odours and degradation of soil, surface and groundwater, and eco-systems.