The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched two separate State of Environment (SOE) reports for South Asia yesterday to help policymakers bring positive changes for achieving sustainable development.
UNEP Director Dr Surendra Shresta launched the reports acknowledging the support of the Sri Lanka-based South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP) in preparing the reports.
State Minister for Environment and Forest Jafrul Islam Chowdhury, Sri Lankan Environment Minister Rukman Senanayake and other ministers from SAARC member countries were present.
Dr Surendra said the reports had drawn from the recently completed national SOE reports for Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, jointly funded by the Norwegian Agency for development Cooperation (NORAD) and UNEP.
The launch of the publications was made during the special Session of the Governing Council of the South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme, which concluded in Colombo yesterday.
The South Asia State of the Environment report identifies five key environmental issues - livelihood security, environmental disasters, industrialisation, urbanisation and bio-diversity loss.
It shows the region suffering from excessive land degradation, desertification, and habitat fragmentation depleting the wide variety of forest products that are an important source of food, medicine and income for indigenous people.
Urbanisation and poverty is a key challenge in cities, with fresh water supply problems being compounded by high population growth rate.
As South Asia's economies have restructured towards industrialisation, energy demands has risen fast, with dependence on coal for electricity production causing air pollution problems.
Institutions and policy-makers must do more to integrate environmental and socio-economic factors into decision-making and to ensure trade liberalisation does not compromise the environment and erode natural resources, the report concludes.