March 13, 2019
NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Environmental damage caused by man-made activities is having a devastating toll on human health, the United Nations said on Wednesday, warning of millions of premature deaths due to air and water pollution by 2050 if action was not taken.
Seen as the most comprehensive and rigorous assessment on the state of the environment, the U.N.’s Global Environment Outlook said human health – was in “dire straits” due to unsustainable development and poor environmental protection.
Air pollution from vehicles and industry as well as burning fuels such as wood, coal and kerosene for cooking, heating and lighting was resulting in around 7 million deaths annually, said the report – costing around $5 trillion in welfare losses.
Water quality has worsened due to increased organic and chemical pollutants such as plastic, pathogens, heavy metals and pesticides. Almost 1.5 million people die annually due to diseases related to drinking pathogen-polluted water, it said.
“Our key message is that a healthy planet enables healthy human life – and that the planet is becoming increasingly unhealthy and this is impacting our health,” said Joyeeta Gupta, one of the leading scientists who worked on the report.
“The causes of an unhealthy planet need to be addressed.”
The 740-page report – compiled over six years by 250 scientists from 70 nations – said human activities could endanger the “ecological foundations of society” and called for unprecedented action.
It was released at the U.N. Environment Assembly, a five-day summit where environment ministers plan to commit to creating a more sustainable planet, from reducing food waste and plastic pollution to developing technologies to combat climate change.