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Poverty Times #1

“When the water is brown, we call it tea”

Polluted water and air cause ill- health and premature death and poor people are the main casualties. By Ma. Sn.

Industries that supply goods primarilyto the world’s middle and upper income groups are largely responsible for air and water pollution. Yet it is the poor who suffer most of the

Each year three million people in developing countries die from waterrelated diseases.

ill health, injury and early death caused by this environmental contamination (1). Two-fifths of the world’s population – mostly in developing countries – live in towns and cities where pollution levels (outdoors and in) are unsafe (2). Inadequate water supply and contaminated water are responsible for ten percent of all disease in developing countries (3)

The urban poor often live close to factories where they are exposed to dangerous emission levels. People living in urban slums further face the hazard of insufficient potable water, water sanitation and waste removal: each year three million people in developing countries die from water-related diseases such as cholera and malaria (4).

Poor communities in rural areas are also exposed to environmental contamination, particularly through agrochemicals. Since the Green Revolution the pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides used by large-scale farms have contaminated ground and surface water, and in turn fish, birds, animals and people. Illiterate farmers who use dangerous agrochemicals without proper training or preventative clothing are at high risk of chemical exposure (5).

Improving water facilities (latrine development etc.), giving industries incentives to reduce pollution (imposing taxes) and supporting organic agriculture and mixed cropping could reduce environmental contamination. A study of 144 water sanitation initiatives, for example, found that improving water facilities can reduce death (from diarrhea etc.)

Improved hand washing can reduce under-five mortality rates by 60 percent.

by 65 percent and that improved hand washing can reduce under-five mortality rates by 60 percent (6). Many industrialized countries have adopted such measures and have managed to reduce air and water pollution.

Ma. Sn.

1. The Jo’burg-Memo: Fairness in A Fragile World, Heinrich Böll Foundation, Berlin, 2002.

2. Oodit, D. and U. Somonis, Poverty and Sustainable Development, in Sustainability and Environmental Policy, ed. Ditetz, U. Somonis, and J. van der Straaten, Berlin, 1992. Cited in Duraiappah, Poverty and Environmental Degradatation: A Review and Analysis of the Nexus, 1998

3. Poverty Trends and Voices of the Poor, The World Bank, Washington D.C., 2001.

4. Murray, C and A. Lopez, The Global Burden of Disease, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA,1996. Cited in DFID et al., Linking Poverty Reduction and Environmental Management, 2002.

5. DFID et. al. Linking Poverty Reduction and Environmental Management: Policy Challenges and Opportunities, 2002.

6. Esrey, S., J. Potash, L. Roberts, and C. Shiff, Effects of Improved Water Supply and Sanitation on Ascariasis, Diarrhea, Dracunhliasis, Hookworm, Infectionary Schistosomiasis and Tracoma. Bulletin of WHO 6515, 1999.