Vientiane, September 7, 2021 – To mark International Clean Air Day for Blue Skies, World Bank releases country environmental scan for Lao PDR, analyzing how the country can use its commitment to greener growth to boost economic recovery after the current downturn and improve health. in the Lao population as a whole.
The theme for this year’s Clean Air Day is âClean Air, Healthy Planet,â highlighting the enormous impact of air pollution on aspects of human health, especially given the pandemic of COVID-19. The new World Bank report investigates the causes and effects of air pollution in Laos. Domestic air pollution in the country is mainly caused by solid cooking fuels, traditionally made by women, and contributes to the high rate of respiratory illnesses. Outdoor air pollution is increasing as more vehicles use the roads, as smog builds up during the agricultural burning season, and as coal-fired power plants are built.
The report applauds the Lao approach in identifying priority challenges and opportunities for moving to greener growth and recommends that other countries learn from them. It recognizes the Laotian government’s commitment to a new economic model capable of preserving the environment and building resilience to natural disasters and economic shocks. This shaped the country’s national green growth strategy, adopted in 2019, and can now be a fundamental pillar of the strategy to bounce back from COVID-19. The pandemic and associated economic crisis underscore the need to accelerate the movement towards green growth to support a sustainable and inclusive recovery, with scarce resources prioritized for the most pressing challenges.
Pollution is a major public health risk that slows economic growth. Environmental health risks cause around 10,000 deaths each year – over 20% of total deaths in Laos – and cause more than 100 million sick days. The annual economic cost is estimated at nearly 15% of GDP. Pre-existing health conditions such as heart or respiratory problems, which make people more vulnerable to COVID-19, can be caused or made worse by air or land pollution.
Meanwhile, the depletion of natural resources that has fueled much of Lao PDR’s economic growth over the past 20 years deprives people of opportunities to meet their own needs, while increasing vulnerability to events. extreme weather. Until recently, forest loss and degradation cost the country almost 3 percent of GDP per year. The poor are disproportionately affected by pollution and environmental degradation.
The new environmental scan by country also cites various successful practices around the world and data from local research, which can inform policies for greener growth and pollution control. It suggests ways to tackle Laos’ most serious environmental risks, as well as other strategies to support the rural economy in a changing climate and strengthen warning systems against natural disasters.
To mark Clean Air Day, the United Nations Environment Program is hosting the Third Joint Asia-Pacific Partnership Clean Air Forum on September 8-9, 2021.