12/09/2004, 00.00
INDIA - ASIA
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Pollution in Asia is chocking the planet

Agra (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A cloud of pollution in the skies across Asia is travelling across the Indian Ocean and is now threatening to make the entire planet a drier place, experts warned yesterday at a meeting in Agra (Uttar Pradesh).

"There is a nexus between local air pollution and global climate change," Mylvakanam Iyngararasan, senior programme specialist for the United Nations Environment Programme, told the annual 'Better Air Quality' conference.

According to him, "research suggests that there will be a large drying-out effect from the air pollution we see now." This is the result of "harmful chemicals, aerosols and other pollutants" whose impact is creating a large "cloud formation," the researcher said. And for this reason, "India has experienced severe droughts in the last few years," he added.

Atmospheric factors play an essential role in the global warming process. "Pollution from China", Mr Iyngararasan warns, "can be blown in days to India or in a matter of weeks travel to Europe, so pollution really is a trans-border problem".

Jitendra Shah, a senior environment engineer with the World Bank in Washington, said Asian countries must "do their bit to keep the neighbourhood clean. No country can build a giant air filter on its borders, so all countries have a responsibility to [keep] their own house in order to keep the neighbourhood clean".

Many studies show that there was a blanket of chemicals and dust from cars, aerosols and industrial smokestacks over South Asia.

In 1998, Indian-born US scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan used planes, ships, satellites and a team of 250 scientists from 15 countries to track a cloud of pollution dubbed the 'Asian Brown Cloud' that hung over the Indian Ocean.

The cloud led to recriminations between the United States and developing countries. The discovery provoked denials from India which felt the country was being singled out as a culprit in global warming and pointed the finger instead to the Bush administration when the latter pulled out of the global Kyoto climate treaty.

According to Mr Ramanathan Los Angeles, New Delhi, Bombay, Beijing and Cairo contribute the most to the worldwide circle of pollution.

"Pollution is by no means restricted solely to the Asian region," countered Indian scientist A.K. Singhal. "There is a haze over Los Angeles and a thick plume of pollution over most big North American cities," he said.

Elisea Gozum, former secretary of the Philippines Environment Department, said: "There is no way we can contain air between city boundaries, so we have to be concerned about the long-range transport of air pollutants in Asia which have serious climate change implications."

About 500 delegates are attending the Agra meeting. On the list are political leaders, activists, members of NGOs and experts.

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