World Bank Says Polluted Air, Water a Growing Health Threat in East Asian Cities
BANGKOK, Thailand Rapid urbanization is causing water and air pollution that poses an increasing threat to the health of people in East Asia's booming cities, the World Bank said Friday, citing two new reports on the environment.
People are flocking to cities faster than the infrastructure to supply them with clean water and sanitation can be built, leaving a quarter of the region's urban residents without access to potable water and more than half lacking basic sanitation, the bank said in a statement.
Contaminated water kills nearly half a million infants each year in the region, while 50,000 people die prematurely annually in China alone due to air pollution from coal burning, it said, citing a new report, Environment Strategy for the East Asia and Pacific region.
The bank said the trends were a growing concern as more people move to already crowded urban centers in East Asia. The statement did not identify specific cities.
More than 39 percent of the region's 1.8 billion people live in cities. By 2015, the bank estimates urban areas will be home to more than half the region's population, according to another report, the Little Green Data Book 2005, the statement said.
"East Asia's economy is growing more quickly than any other region, but improvements in human welfare are being offset by serious environmental issues," Jemal-ud-din Kassum, World Bank vice president for East Asia and the Pacific, was quoted as saying.
Pollution and environmental destruction has also made people more vulnerable to natural disasters. Damage to coastal mangrove forests and coral reefs contributed in part to the magnitude of the Asian tsunami on Dec. 26, it said.
Source: Associated Press