Bangkok, 22 September 2015 – The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Member States have made good inroads towards greening their economies, but environmental degradation continues to take a toll on the region’s economies, according to a new SAARC – UNEP report released today.
The South Asia Environment Outlook 2014 says the region has taken positive steps toward policy transformation, with green growth and green economy policies and low carbon and emission plans in many countries. Investment in ecosystem restoration and ecosystem based adaptation has also yielded benefits for communities. However, climate change and unsustainable development will impinge on the region’s growth.
“Achieving the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in South Asia will require a major shift towards sustainable consumption and production, sustainable management of natural resources and fast action on building resilience to climate change,” said Kaveh Zahedi, UNEP Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific.
“Smart policies that increase investments in protection of biodiversity and ecosystems and foster energy efficiency will not only drive inclusive growth but also protect life-supporting systems that ensure food, water and livelihood security for the people of the region.”
Nearly 1.6 billion people live in the region, fast growing from a rural to a predominantly urban society. Large concentrations of populations are living with deteriorating air quality and declining infrastructure. Particulate matter (PM10) concentrations are exceptionally high and regularly exceed World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
Nearly 700 million people in eight countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) lack access to basic sanitation. Traditional biomass – the predominant cooking fuel used by almost 70 per cent of the region’s population – is a major source of indoor pollution in South Asia.
“SAARC Member States have given high priority to systematically addressing the pressing environmental challenges through enhanced collaboration, partnership and regional cooperation towards conservation, protection and management of our environment,” said H.E. Mr. Arjun Bahadur Thapa, Secretary General of SAARC.
Reduced water supply, a result of poor management and climate change, is a growing concern and will have major adverse effects on food production and livelihood security for the majority of people who depend on agriculture for a living. The region is also prone to climate-related disasters. There were 220 flood incidents from 2005-2014.
The report spells out a number of cross-cutting policy options for South Asia’s transition towards a green economy, which include greater awareness of environmental solutions to development challenges, more participatory community management of natural resources, sustainable and responsible business practices and transfer of environmentally sound technologies, along with increased collaboration across borders on the environment.
The South Asia Environment Outlook 2014 will be made available at: www.saarc-sec.org
For more information, please contact:
Ms. Satwant Kaur, Regional Information Officer, UNEP, Bangkok, Thailand, Tel: +66-2-288 2127, Email: [email protected]
Mr. Ananda Dias, Regional Coordinator, Early Warning and Assessment, UNEP, Bangkok, Thailand, Tel: +66-2-2882617, E-mail: [email protected] Director-ENB, SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu, Nepal, Tel. +977-1-4228929; E-mail: [email protected]