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World Environment Day 2019 – Beat Air Pollution

Posted in: Press Releases by kendol | 05 June 2019 | 2070

    World Environment Day 2019 – Beat Air Pollution

    World Environment Day which takes place annually on June 5 is the United Nations day encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. It first began in 1974, and is now widely celebrated in over 100 countries including several CARICOM countries. The theme for this year’s celebration of World Environment Day 2019 calls for action at the local, national and global level to Beat Air Pollution

    The choice for this year’s theme is linked to data provided by the World Health Organization which shows that every year, around 7 million people die prematurely from disease caused by air pollution. Additionally, the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2019, published by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction demonstrated the inter-linkages between air pollution, diseases, earthquakes, drought and climate change and how they build on each other to exacerbate their impact on human health and the environment.

    The increasing impacts of global climate change especially as it affects CARICOM Small Island and Low Lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS) creates new challenges as we face increased frequency and intensity of climate related disasters.  Flood waters serve as a breeding ground for airborne microbes and mold which when picked up by the wind, can lead to lung disease. Dust mites, microorganisms and mold which thrive in damp buildings and furniture, aggravate asthma, allergies and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

    On the other extreme droughts coupled with unsustainable land use practices can lead to sand and dust storms.  Fine particles of dust can travel thousands of miles carrying pathogens and harmful substances, causing acute and chronic respiratory problems.

    As a region we also have to be mindful that open waste burning and organic waste in landfills can release harmful dioxins, furans, methane, and black carbon into the atmosphere.  The United Nations has estimated that open burning of agricultural and municipal waste is practiced in 166 out of 193 countries.

    In order to address the challenge of air pollution, as a region that is at the forefront of the global flight on climate change we have to continue to advocate for more ambitious climate action by the international community.  Closer to home we have to examine means of improving our waste disposals methods and more importantly addressing the unsustainable consumption and production patterns that generate amounts of waste that are not compatible with SIDS realities. In this regard serious consideration can be given at the household and national level to separating organic waste and reducing the amount of food wastage.  There have been international best practices demonstrating how organic waste can be diverted for improving soil fertility and generating alternate energy.

    As we celebrate World Environment Day we should continue to “think global but act local”.  The future of our planet and our future generations require collective action on a sustained basis.


    Sustainable Development Unit, CARICOM Secretariat

    5 May 2019