New UN study details regional, global impacts of vast pollution cloud in South Asia
A new study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) suggests that a vast blanket of pollution stretching across South Asia is damaging agriculture, modifying rainfall patterns and putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk.
This "Asian Brown Haze" is threatening the spectacular economic growth seen in this part of the world in the past decade, the UN agency said, urging vital follow-up studies to unravel the precise role this three kilometre-deep pollution blanket may be having on the region's climate as well as the world's environment.
But the preliminary results indicate that the build up of the haze, a mass of ash, acids, aerosols and other particles, is disrupting weather systems, including rainfall and wind patterns, and triggering droughts in western parts of Asia.
The concern is that the regional and global impacts of the haze are set to intensify over the next 30 years as the population of the Asian region rises to an estimated 5 billion people.
Speaking at a press conference in London, where the report was launched, UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer stressed that action was needed to have a better understanding of the scientific complexities of the phenomenon as well as measures to reduce the haze.
"More research is needed, but these initial findings clearly indicate that this growing cocktail of soot, particles, aerosols and other pollutants are becoming a major environmental hazard for Asia," he said. "There are also global implications not least because a pollution parcel like this, which stretches three kilometres high, can travel half way round the globe in a week."