life expectancy in MongoliaMongolia is a landlocked nation in Central Asia bordered by China to the south and Russia to the north. It is the third-least sparsely populated country in the world with an average population of 1.9 people per square kilometer. Mongolia has been a representative democracy since the U.S.S.R. collapsed in 1990 when a protest movement forced out the pro-Soviet government. The country’s economy crashed after the withdrawal of Soviet support in the 1990s and then again after the global financial crisis of 2009. It exhibited a strong recovery a few years after each event. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in Mongolia should shed some light on the state of health in this country today.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mongolia

  1. The average life expectancy in Mongolia is 69.9 years, ranking 160 in the world out of 224 countries listed. For comparison, the U.S. ranked 43 in life expectancy. According to figures from the World Bank, life expectancy in Mongolia had increased by 43 percent between 1960 and 2016.

  2. The top causes of premature death in Mongolia are heart disease, stroke and neonatal disorders (diseases affecting newborn children). However, neonatal disorders have decreased significantly in recent years. According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the prevalence of neonatal disorders decreased by 13.3 percent in just 10 years from 2007 to 2017. Infant mortality overall has steadily declined since 1978 from 117.9 to 14.8 per 1,000 live births. However, heart disease and stroke have both increased during that same period by 9.3 percent and 11.2 percent, respectively.

  3. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government foreign aid agency, cooperated with the Mongolian government on a variety of programs as part of a $284.9 million compact between 2007 and 2013. One of those programs was the Health Project, which aimed to combat various diseases, including heart disease and stroke. The project trained more than 17,000 medical professionals and provided equipment to more than 550 health facilities, which enabled those facilities to screen almost every Mongolian person over the age of 40 for various diseases.

  4. In Mongolia, there is a steep divide in health care access between urban and rural areas. Part of the reason for Mongolia’s low population density is that many people in rural areas practice a nomadic lifestyle. However, the healthcare system, which has been largely dependent upon foreign aid since dramatic cuts in government spending in the 1990s, has struggled to adapt to servicing such a mobile population. This lack of equal access to healthcare might explain why health indicators, including maternal and infant mortality rates, HIV/AIDS and others are generally worse in rural areas of Mongolia than in cities.

  5. In recent years, the Mongolian government, with the help of the Asian Development Bank, has significantly expanded access to healthcare for rural people. This involved building new health centers, and providing new equipment and training to existing centers and hospitals. Shilchin Degmid, a nomadic livestock herder, told the ADB that, in particular, “[e]mergency services have greatly improved.” In the end, it is estimated that 700,000 people will receive improved healthcare as a result of the initiative.

  6. Even in urban areas with more facilities, access to healthcare can be very difficult for people living in poverty. Whether they live in the city or the country, people in Mongolia living in poverty struggle to access affordable healthcare. According to Lindskog, in Mongolia, “population health and access to affordable health care are significantly linked to socioeconomic disparities.”
  7. Poverty affects more than 1 in 4 people. According to the Asian Development Bank, 29.6 percent of people in Mongolia live in poverty. However, extreme poverty has decreased dramatically since its peak of 26.9 percent twenty years ago. Today, 1 in 200 people in Mongolia lives in extreme poverty.

  8. One successful project in fighting poverty is the Alternative Livelihood Project (ALP). ALP has been conducted in a rural area of South Mongolia by the U.N. Development Programme and in collaboration with the local government and organized groups of local residents. The primary purpose of the project was to improve disaster preparedness and economic sustainability in the local economy. Support from the U.N.D.P. and the local government has helped local residents access training and start new businesses. Local residents were also better able to access wider markets for their existing businesses thanks to the U.N.D.P.’s connections elsewhere in the country.

  9. Pollution is a serious problem for the health of urban residents. Air pollution has been shown to significantly impact life expectancy throughout the world. Last year, UNICEF declared air pollution in the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, to be a child health crisis. The agency noted that Ulaanbaatar has some of the highest levels of air pollution in the world during wintertime, with pollution rates reaching as high as 133 times the safe levels recommended by the World Health Organization.

  10. One initiative working to fight air pollution is the Ulaanbaatar Clean Air Project. The project is the result of the collaboration between Ulaanbaatar’s city government, the Mongolian national government, the World Bank and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Between 2010 and 2015, the project distributed 175,000 low-emission stoves to impoverished residents of Ulaanbaatar. Most of the residents living in ger or small detached homes in Ulaanbaatar experience disproportionate levels of poverty. As a result, they heat their homes in wintertime using their stove. The new stoves that the project distributed had 98 percent lower emissions than older models of stoves, reducing pollution during winter months. Furthermore, in 2016, the project helped 200 households to insulate their homes.


While the effort to improve life expectancy in Mongolia faces significant challenges, progress is being made. The Mongolian government is collaborating with the United Nations Development Programme on several programs to reduce poverty, including improving economic policy planning and enhancing opportunities for entrepreneurship in rural areas. Furthermore, many organizations have worked with local organizations and governments in Mongolia to improve healthcare in a variety of ways. And while some indicators, such as economic growth, have tended to fluctuate, others, such as infant mortality, have uniformly improved in recent years. Even though challenges remain, these top 10 facts about life expectancy in Mongolia show that the future is bright.

Sean Ericson
Photo: Flickr

Indigo dye in indiaIn 2017, the people in Mumbai, India saw something strange happening with the stray dogs of the city. The dogs all seemed to be turning a light blue color. People reported to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board that a company in the Taloja Industry area was dumping indigo dye, which was primarily used by that company, in the local Kasadi river. The dogs were hunting for food in the area and, consequently, their fur was turned blue. Authorities quickly shut down the factory to prevent more dye from entering the river, but the question remained about how toxic this dye is not only to the animals but the locals as well? With the long history of indigo dye and India, why has this only recently become a problem?

Indigo Dye in India

Indigo is a natural dye, but unlike most natural dyes, indigo dye penetrates clothes directly when heated. Indigo dye and India are correlated because the country had been using it naturally for centuries. Now, however, most factories use a chemical agent called mordant to increase the number of clothes produced in less time. Mordants can be just acidic, not necessarily toxic, but most companies choose to use mordant with aluminum and chromium. Both of these can cause great damage to the ecosystem. Factory wastewater can poison rivers, killing plants, animals and poisoning drinking water for the people of India.

Even without mordants, natural indigo dye is not great for the environment either. It is slow to decompose and darkens river water, so flora and fauna starve from lack of sunlight. That is why the dogs of Mumbai turned blue upon entering the river. The best approach to preventing toxic dyes from entering and poisoning the rivers is prevention and filtration. If factories used local plants for dyes, that would help filtration. Prevention is tricky. Scientist Juan Hinestroza is working on using nanotechnology to apply dye directly to cloth fibers. If this is successful, it would make toxic dyes and mordants obsolete.

Water Pollution

Groundwater, rivers and streams are being severely affected by this fashionable color. With such a high demand for cheap clothes in indigo, like denim jeans, factories and workshops find cheap, quick ways to produce products at high volumes. Tirupur, India is home to many factories specifically used for making and dyeing clothes. These factories have been dumping the wastewater from production into rivers in the area. Despite tougher regulations, they continue the process, rendering local and groundwater undrinkable.

With dying waters and a rising population, India is struggling to clean up its rivers. The fight is far from over, and people have turned to the government for an answer. Activists are heading to court to get municipalities and states to rise and take action. They started with one demand for the restoration for the Mithi river, a river polluted with dye, paint and engine oil. Citizens started legal petitions then gathered volunteers to get other rivers in the area cleaned up. After a terrible flood in 2005, dams were built to reduce overflow, which was helpful because the rivers are now split it in two.

Back To Nature

India is one of the few countries that produce indigo and denim clothes at high volumes, so the ways of naturally applying indigo to clothing is a long lost art. However, one designer is working to change that. Payal Jain, a fashion designer in India, is bringing back the natural ways of getting indigo straight from the plant and onto the clothes. Using mud and intricate wood carvings, artisans use this method to print the color directly to the fabric. Bringing back traditional ways of dying could relieve the environment from toxic, synthetic dyes.

Blue dogs appearing in the streets, poisoned rivers and groundwater, crops dying and limited access to clean drinking water are all direct results of indigo dye waste being dumped into the rivers. As long as factories continue to dump dye waste into rivers, this problem will persist. The citizens of India are coming together to clear the neglected rivers and push for tougher regulations on clothing factories. With the government’s support and the use of new scientific methods to dye clothing, Indigo dye in India could remain popular without being dangerous.

Kayla Cammarota
Photo: Flickr

Plastic waste in IndiaPlastic waste in India has collectively reached 8.3 billion tons throughout the past 70 years. This is inclusive of plastic bags, plastic bottles, packaging, straws, spoons and forks and much more. To picture how much 8.3 billion tons would look like, compare it to 1 billion elephants or 822,000 Eiffel Towers.

Plastic Poses a Threat to the Sea Life

This immense amount of plastic waste in India often ends up polluting the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It acts as entrapments to the natural habitats. When ingested by fishes, the chemicals that compose the plastic poisons them and make them inedible for consumption. In other cases, plastic packaging such as the rings for canned sodas pose as a threat to wildlife like Turtles as it can strangle them. Additionally, the sea creatures view plastic waste as predators that interfere with their natural food consumption. This makes these animals starve as they find it difficult to approach their natural food source.

Plastic Waste in India Affects the Livelihood of Fishermen

Fishing is one of the primary occupations for people living on the coasts of India. For many, that is the only source of income. The problem of plastic waste in the sea is affecting the livelihood of fishermen to a great extent.

Recently, fishermen and women in India have begun to filter through, wash and sort the plastic collected from the sea. Those that are too damaged or far too recycled, are further recycled. While the plastic that is in near-perfect form is shredded and sold to construction companies. It is shredded into a consistency finer than confetti and used to build up the asphalt used to pave roads.

Using Plastic to Construct Roads

There are various benefits to using recycled plastics over regular plastics, especially in terms of constructing roads. By using recycled plastic, one can save approximately 1 ton of asphalt. In addition, cost wise, it provides approximately 8 percent profit. Furthermore, addressing the influx of plastic waste in India paves way for new jobs for many unemployed citizens.

In terms of quality, roads constructed with the help of recycled plastic tends to be more durable against weather conditions such as floods and high temperatures. A variety of smaller plastic shredding businesses have risen in order to support this new form of construction.

The Process of Utilizing Plastic Waste

The process involved in constructing roads from recycled plastic is relatively simple. First, the different kinds of plastic wastes are sorted, cleaned and dried. Then, it is shredded into a fine confetti texture. After that, it is melted at 170 degrees Celcius. To this, hot bitumen, a mixture used to build roads, is added. Once this mixture is complete, it is further mixed with asphalt concrete and laid out into foundations.

This technique of utilizing plastic waste to build roads has been already put to practice in 11 states throughout India. Some of these places include Halls Road, Ethiraj Silai Street and Sardar Patel Street. Currently, 100,000 kilometers of roads have been built.

One of the leading cities to implement this technique is Chennai. So far, 160,000 kilograms of plastic have been reused. In turn, 1.035 kilometers of road has been built. By following the mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle, plastic waste in India is being redirected to better the country.

Jessica Ramtahal
Photo: Flickr

Iraq’s Chemical Pollution in the Wake of ISISThree decades of armed conflict in Iraq have decimated the country. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, while countless more have been wounded and displaced. It has damaged Iraq’s vital infrastructure and industrial areas, polluting the country and wiping agricultural lands off the map. The government’s capacity for industrial and environmental oversight has diminished severely and the occupation by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) heightened long-standing concerns over the country’s environmental safety. Iraq’s chemical pollution in the wake of ISIS puts more agriculture, livestock, water and human health at risk, but U.N. organizations and U.S. programs are helping the country to recover.

The ISIS Occupation Consequences

During their occupation of the country, ISIS captured the Alas and Ajeel oil fields in the Hamrin mountains and seized control of Qayyarah oil field and the Baiji oil refinery. Qayyarah oil field produced 30,000 barrels daily and Baiji produced more than one-third of Iraq’s domestic oil production before this occurrence. According to the ISIS’ scorched earth strategy, they ignited oil wells around the Qayyarah, Alas and Ajeel oil fields, and during their retreat of Baiji, they devastated the facility not only by setting fire to wells but to oil tanks and critical infrastructure. When the Iraqi army recaptured the Qayyarah oil field in September 2016, ISIS had set 20 wells on fire as they retreated.

Satellite imagery captured by UNOSAT, the Operational Satellite Applications Program of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, showed that smoke from the fires deposited soot over the town of Qayyarah and its surrounding area. The fires had released immense quantities of toxic residues, while mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) left behind by ISIS complicated efforts by Iraqi firefighters. They managed to extinguish the last fire in March 2017, but by then, all that was left was a blackened and contaminated landscape. When Wim Zwijnenburg, a lead researcher at PAX, a Dutch nonprofit and nongovernmental peace organization, visited the Qayyarah region in 2017, he saw burning oil slicks still flowing from oil wells, lakes filled with solidified crude oil and white sheep black from soot.

Suffering From the Effects of Chemical Warfare

ISIS’ chemical weapons usage was rampant in Iraq and the concealed improvised chemical devices they planted upon their retreats still threaten citizens of Mosul and its surrounding areas. Oil spills from exploded wells, refineries, trucks, tanks and pipelines, as well as mustard gas residue, have infiltrated soil, ground and surface waters. Chemicals found in crude oil, such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals have subsequently influenced drinking water and agricultural land. When released by fires, these dangerous substances can affect natural resources and civilian health in communities far beyond their burning epicenters.

Additionally, as the oil from the spills dried out, hazardous volatile organic compounds have been released into the air and have caused liver and kidney damage and cancer in humans and animals. Damage to Mosul’s electrical grid has resulted in high levels of Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in the city associated with slower mental development in children and cancer.

Toxic chemicals released by oil fires had impacted the respiratory system of Iraqis and chemical compounds found in these fires can lead to acid rain that destroys soil, all negatively impacting vegetation. Citizens view the agricultural aftermath of Iraq’s chemical pollution as a long-term consequence. It has compromised their livelihoods by killing livestock and destroying cultivated and grazing land, ridding livestock breeders and farmers of their income. ISIS also used university laboratories in Mosul to manufacture chemical bombs. Their lack of safeguards when handling chemical agents and hazardous waste now pose serious contamination risks to the nearby environment.

Medical Treatment and Wash Needs

High levels of radiation and other toxic substances from previous conflicts still flow into the Iraqi environment, but it is Iraq’s chemical pollution in the wake of ISIS that heightens the concerns of Qayyarah’s citizens. Aside from burns, deformations and other disabilities, chemical weapons, burning oil and military remnants can mutate human genes and result in more defects at birth.

In March 2017, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) collaborated with medical authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) to treat patients suffering from toxic exposure. According to a U.N. report, in September 2018, U.S. Ambassador in Iraq, Douglas A. Silliman, declared a health disaster in Basrah after approximately 80,000 people contracted gastrointestinal illness from contaminated water between August and September. In response, USAID allocated $750,000 to address immediate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) need.

Cleaning Up a Toxic Wasteland

In 2018, the Iraqi government and U.N. Environment Programme partnered to build a cross-ministry team to tackle Iraq’s chemical pollution. The joint initiative’s objective is to prevent future exploitation of toxic substances for chemical warfare through government capabilities enhancement and chemicals control improvement. As a selected participant of the U.N. Environment’s Special Programme, Iraq will receive comprehensive information and training to help it meet its chemicals and waste management program obligations.

Iraq’s Ministry of Environment is capable of assessing contaminated sites but lacks the equipment and skills for cleaning and full documentation. The hope is the initiative will provide strategies and enhance on-site assessment methodologies to expedite the cleanup of Iraq’s Chemical Pollution.

– Julianne Russo

Photo: Pixabay

Using Ocean Plastic to End PovertyThere are an estimated 150 million tons of plastic in the oceans and about 80 percent of that plastic comes from countries that can be considered as countries with extreme poverty. Individuals struggling to feed their families and send their children to school do not have time to worry about recycling and are often unaware of the effects of pollution on their surrounding environment. To address this issue, David Katz founded the Plastic Bank, a company that is using ocean plastic to end poverty.

The Plastic Bank- Using Ocean Plastic to End Poverty

The Plastic Bank aims to combine social and environmental impact by creating value out of plastic waste. Communities suffering from poverty usually do not have effective waste management programs and therefore any plastic products used by local families end up polluting the surrounding environment. By working with impoverished communities, the Plastic Bank helps set up stores in which the accepted currency is post-consumer plastics. This enables individuals to collect plastics and exchange them for money, goods and services.

This program has proven to be very successful in Haiti. A number of stores have been founded in which locals can bring used plastics to be weighed and checked for quality and then traded in for credit. The stores that are created and operated by locals offer various products and services, from food and water to school tuition and medical insurance to cell phone minutes and high-efficiency stoves.

Cooperation with Other Companies

In addition to offering a means of steady income, this credit system allows individuals to set up a savings account. Impoverished communities often rely on cash transactions and are therefore at a greater risk of corruption and theft. To solve this, the Plastic Bank teamed up with IBM to employ blockchain technology, removing money from the equation completely.

The Plastic Bank then sells the plastics collected to socially and environmentally conscious companies around the world. Brands like Marks and Spencer and Henkel use recycled plastic in their manufacturing. As a consumer, everyone can support poverty-reduction efforts and the environment by buying products made with these recycled plastics.

Innovative Solutions

The Plastic Bank is continuing to expand its operations and is testing out other innovative solutions by using ocean plastics to end poverty, such as a bottle-deposit program in Vancouver in which all of the money collected from recycled plastics is sent to poor communities around the world. Another idea is to match churches in big cities with those in impoverished nations. For example, a church in London asking its members to bring in plastics and then, with the help of the Plastic Bank, sending the proceeds to a church in Cairo that is able to assist the members of its community suffering from poverty.

The Plastic Bank has formed a system in which plastic waste is given a value, offering individuals a means of income while incentivizing anti-pollution efforts. Not only is this program using ocean plastics to end poverty and to create jobs for locals living in poverty, but it also creates stores in which goods and services most needed by the community are available. As they continue to grow and implement new ideas, the Plastic Bank is supporting those suffering from poverty around the world while tackling a global pollution issue.

– Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Google

Air Pollution in IranAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 9 out of 10 people breathe in high levels of pollutants resulting in the deaths of 7 million people each year. These diseases include cancer, heart disease, lung disease and strokes. The regions with the highest rates of air pollution are commonly found in Asia and Africa; however, cities in America, Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean also have levels that WHO finds unhealthy.

For regions with high rates of air pollution, the issue often lies with energy production such as the of burning coal and other industrial activities. These methods lead to increased air pollution because, on average, developing countries don’t possess the technology and resources to combat polluting waste. Iran is one such country that is experiencing this very problem.

Dust Storms in the Khuzestan Province

At the start of 2018, Iran made headlines for having the worst dust storm yet where elementary schools in 15 cities were shut down in the province of Khuzestan alone. Ahvaz, the largest city of southwestern Iran, was one of the 15. Known for its post-secondary education and role in commerce and industry, Ahvaz pollution levels were approximately 53 times higher than the moderate standard that WHO considers safe. As a result of the large dust storm, people of this province were forced to stay indoors, without power or running water at times, and 806 people were taken to the emergency wards, of whom 39 were hospitalized and nine were taken into intensive care.

This year’s dust storm isn’t the first to occur in the Khuzestan province. According to a study on the dust storms in southwestern Iran, one of the highest occurrences of dust storms was in 2009 with the respective number of days being 48 days during colder climates and 122 days during warmer climates. Because of the reoccurring dust storms, the number of protests has increased.

In January, the people of Ahvaz gathered in front of the City Council to bring awareness of the effects air pollution is having on them such as the loss of domestic products and increased health care costs. For example, the World Bank reports that diseases caused by air pollution cost $260 million in Iran causing damage to Iran’s economy by as much as 0.023 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

Fueling their grievances further and contributing to the economic decline of Iran are changes in the regions’ climate and depleting water sources. Stronger winds are carrying the toxic dust and contaminating the water, which additionally aggravates health issues and thereby increases the medical costs for treatments.

Air Pollution in Tehran

In Tehran, air pollution is also causing grievances. Tehran is located at higher altitudes with the Alborz Mountain Range surrounding it and, therefore, comes in contact with the majority of the air pollution in Iran. The air pollution is also attributed to temperature inversions that prevent common pollutants like carbon dioxide and sulfur from being broken down in the atmosphere and the high use of vehicles stocked with archaic technology that continue to move around Tehran. Other major causes of air pollution in Iran include come from refineries and power plants, industries, household sources, and gas terminals.

In Tehran, the annual economic health costs associated with air pollution are about $2.6 billion. In order to combat air pollution, Tehran Municipality has shut down 8 businesses and heavily restricted the use of older trucks and buses. They also encourage the production of vehicles with more updated technology to reduce air pollution, which will replace some of the 3,400 old buses that crowd the streets today.

As a result of such actions, air pollution in Iran is seeing results. For example, the amount of black carbon (a major air pollutant) present was decreased by 50 percent, which reduces the toxicity of the air pollution affecting the population. In recent years, Iran has adopted higher fuel quality standards, is working to improve the management of the methods of congestion in locations with major activity and has encouraged the use of hybrid and electric vehicles as well as the use of bicycles.

The Clean Air Law in Iran

The Clean Air Law, adopted in July of 2017, continues implementing methods of reducing air pollution in Iran. For example, the law introduces heavier punishments and fines for any industries or individuals that do not adhere to the pollution limits. They also plan to divide the city of Tehran into three zones and charge people for crossing into the zones (like a toll system) as a way of deterring people from using personal cars, which will help decrease the particles present.

In efforts to decrease the number of children being admitted into hospitals for an air pollution-related condition, there have been talks of starting the school year earlier so that students would be on vacation during the period of the worst pollution in winter or introducing a one month vacation during that time. The Ministry of Agriculture has also acknowledged the importance of anti-desertification in reducing the pollution from dust storms and will be working annually on the 300,000 hectares of land that have caused the worst of the storms.

A Brighter Future

By taking these steps forward in reducing air pollution, Iran is working to prevent the premature deaths that result from noncommunicable diseases due to air pollution every year. It also reduces the cost of treatment and time off needed since fewer individuals would need to miss work to be attended to and could, therefore, become more financially stable. This allows the country to distribute financial efforts and alleviate another poverty stressor.

In general, the management of pollution can improve the quality of life for individuals and enhance competitiveness for the country through job creation, better energy efficiency, improved transport and sustainable urban and rural development. It also combats climate change thereby contributing to the alleviation of poverty by providing jobs and creating a healthier population.

– Stephanie Singh
Photo: Flickr

Costa Rica bans single use plasticsCosta Rica will become the first country to ban single-use plastics in an effort to meet its goal of eliminating them from the country by 2021. The ban will include straws, cutlery, bags, bottles and cups made from plastic.

Costa Rica has already been a world leader for environmental protection. The country has reversed its deforestation and doubled its forest cover from 26 percent in 1984 to 52 percent in 2017. However, one-fifth of the country’s 4,000 tonnes of solid waste produced daily is not disposed of correctly and ends up in the Costa Rican landscape and shoreline.

Costa Rica is not alone in its issue with plastic waste. According to the findings by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2016, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 if current consumption and disposal trends continue.

More Than Just an Environmental Impact

This waste harms not only the environment but also Costa Rica’s economy. Tourism and ecotourism are staples in the Costa Rican economy. The country cannot afford the environmental decay not only because they care for the environment but also because a large number of Costa Ricans rely on ecotourism for income.

Costa Rica plans to change how the country uses and disposes of plastics in an effort to help its environment and its people. Because the country’s economy depends largely on tourism, the move to ban single-use plastics will help with job creation and stability in the country as the landscape are improved and more ecotourism opportunities are produced. Citizens will be able to work at national parks, as well as in businesses that have an ecotourism model.

By ensuring the health and stability of its environment, Costa Rica is ensuring that jobs remain and grow. In addition to job security, the health of the country’s people will improve in conjunction with the health of the land. With less air and water pollution there will be fewer harmful chemicals posing a risk to Costa Ricans.

Sustainable Development

The Costa Rican government has made it clear that they believe this single-use plastic ban to be for the benefit of all people, not only for the environment. As a part of their larger Sustainable Development Goals, Costa Rica believes it is necessary to bring balance to all sectors — social, economic and environmental — in order to be a more egalitarian country.

In order to accomplish this, the country will establish a plan to accompany the new legislation. As Costa Rica phases out single-use plastics, the government will have measures in place that protect the people affected by the ban in social and economic ways as well.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, the plan Costa Rica is establishing for the ban of single-use plastics will be one “that cares for people’s health, ensures fair wages and equal opportunities for women and men, while taking care of forests and wetlands.” These are important steps in creating the sustainable balance that Costa Rica strives to achieve.

While this plan is yet to be released, Costa Rica will continue to be caring for impoverished people, providing equality in work between men and women as well as working to significantly better the environment in which its citizens live.

Once Costa Rica bans single-use plastics, they will be an example to the rest of the world for how environmental change can benefit not only the land in which people live but also the people living on the land.

– Savannah Hawley
Photo: Flickr

Ocean Preservation in Developing CountriesMore than two-thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans, which contain 97 percent of the planet’s water. Billions of people rely on the preservation of oceans to provide sustainable jobs and food resources. Ocean preservation in developing countries has proven to be especially critical. According to the FAO, fisheries and aquaculture make up 10 to 12 percent of the world’s population, with more than 90 percent working in small-scale fisheries in developing countries.

The health of oceanic ecosystems and marine life is what drives the health and sustainability of other global systems that allow the planet to be habitable above water. Healthy oceans not only promote economic growth and food production, but they are also crucial in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. Warmer oceans cause ocean acidification, which threatens the balance and productivity of marine life and the Earth’s ecosystem.

The Biggest Problems

Marine Biodiversity Loss: The ocean’s diverse life greatly contributes to the wellbeing of humans. Fish benefit the ecosystem by regulating the climate and producing oxygen while also providing a source of protein, which many people depend on. However, marine ecosystems are facing an unprecedented loss in biodiversity as a direct result of habitat destruction, pollution, overfishing and climate change. This loss of marine biodiversity especially affects coastal communities in developing countries because marine resource exploitation often represents the majority of their livelihoods, serves as their main source of animal protein and, in some cases, represents their cultural identities.

Plastic Pollution: According to U.N. Environment, about eight million tons of plastic waste are produced each year, which is equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. This plastic pollution introduces micro-plastics into the marine life food chain. China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, and Thailand are primarily responsible for more than 50 percent of the total plastic waste found in oceans. If this trend continues without urgent action, oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

The 14th U.N. Sustainable Development Goal

In 2015, the U.N. developed 17 sustainable development goals to achieve by 2030. Goal 14 is to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. As a result, the U.N. urges countries to preserve marine biodiversity. Unfortunately, many marine biodiversity hotspots (areas that have large numbers of endemic species and are heavily threatened by habitat loss) are located in developing tropical countries, such as the Western Pacific Ocean, the Southwest Indian Ocean and the Coral Triangle. These places suffer from limited resources, which makes it difficult to effectively maintain or improve the biodiversity without international aid.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are intended to provide protection, according to the conservation status and biodiversity value of a particular area. In developing countries, MPAs are widely recognized as a tool to provide food security and build resilience against climate change impacts such as coastal erosion. Unfortunately, the lack of economic and human resources in these regions cause a great challenge in the creation, enforcement, monitoring and control of the MPAs.

The World Bank Group

The World Bank Group strives to promote oceanic preservation in developing countries by supporting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, establishing coastal and marine protected areas, reducing pollution, and developing a greater knowledge of ocean health.

The Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project is an example of a successful World Bank-funded oceanic preservation program. This project has pioneered “hazard line mapping” for the entire coastline of India, which makes it possible to better manage India’s coastal space and minimize coastal vulnerabilities by utilizing shoreline protection and strategic land use plans.

So far, 1.5 million people have benefited from this program. Sewage treatment plants for about one million people have been completed, which has contributed to the prevention of flow of more than 80 million liters of waste into the ocean per day, protecting over 250 miles of Indian coastline.

Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action

Today, more and more oceanic preservation initiatives are being prioritized in developing countries, such as Mozambique, Indonesia and several West African countries. However, despite the success of ocean preservation in developing countries, there is definitely still more work to be done. Proper management of fisheries and investment in the sustainable protection of marine habitats will improve the productivity of the ocean and provide benefits for the those living in developing countries while also ensuring future growth, food security and jobs for coastal communities.

– Lolontika Hoque
Photo: Flickr

Even though there is air pollution in every country, developing countries with rapidly growing populations are more likely to have the short end of the stick when it comes to air pollution.

Global Air Quality

The World Health Organization released an updated global ambient air quality database stating that populations in low-income cities are the most impacted by poor air quality. The updated database shows that 97 percent of cities in low and middle-income countries do not meet the WHO air quality guidelines. This percentage drops greatly — to 49 percent — when looking at high-income countries.

WHO released a list ranking the particulate pollution in cities all around the world. On this list, 11 of the 12 cities were in India. This ranking doesn’t necessarily say that Kanpur, India has the worst air quality, but rather states that it has a higher risk of poor air quality.

But this data begs the question — why are India and many other developing countries so susceptible to poor air quality?

Developing Countries and Poor Air Quality

Two main issues that plague developing nations are that the government doesn’t have its sights set on cleaner energy, and renewable resources tend to be more expensive than cheap fossil fuels like coal. For example, in India, there are anti-pollution laws, but the government doesn’t enforce these laws well enough. “Outdoor air pollution is pretty much a governance problem,” said Kirk Smith, a professor of global environmental health at the University of California Berkeley.

The difficulty in India comes from scenarios where one major city bans a certain type of pollution source, but those in neighboring cities may not have banned this specific source — the pollution can then blow unimpeded over the perimeter. There needs to be coordination across cities to fix this issue. In India, this can be rather difficult due to the fact that the rural and urban politicians have fairly different constituencies.

Roughly seven million people die each year due to air pollution. Air pollution can cause diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory infections.

More than 90 percent of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. Cities and national governments need to take action to reduce the number of deaths caused by air pollution and to improve the overall quality of living. Here are three ways that cities and national governments can reduce air pollution in developing countries.

How To Reduce Air Pollution in Developing Countries

  1. Implement cleaner methods of transportation: Emissions from vehicles are a large driving factor in air pollution. When governments don’t regulate vehicle emissions the amount of pollution in the air will exponentially increase. There are many ways that governments can cut down on vehicle emissions. Offering buses and taxis allows more people in one vehicle instead of more vehicles on the road putting out emissions. Cities can also provide options for walking and cycling to improve air quality.
  2. Invest in energy efficient power generation: Another solution cities and governments can take is to provide energy efficient power. By producing power in an efficient and clean way, not only will the citizens be able to have power, but they will have clean air that will affect them more beneficially in the long run.
  3. Provide universal access to clean and affordable fuels: The majority of energy production in developing countries is produced by coal. This is also one of the most polluting energy sources out there. What makes moving coal out and another energy source in so difficult is that coal is cheap and affordable. Cities and governments need to ensure that the population has access to cheap and reliable energy.

While the government and city officials have much they could do to reduce air pollution in developing countries, there is also plenty that can be done on the individual level. Here are three ways a single person can make an impact on the air around them.

  1. Grow a garden: There are different plants that could be grown that give the air the nutrients it needs to be cleaner. There are also plants that eat harmful particulates in the air. Growing a garden is an easy way to take small steps towards creating cleaner air.
  2. Use public transportation: Taking public transportation is an easy way for someone to get to where they need to be without adding to the pollution around them and therefore cutting down on vehicle emissions. If public transportation isn’t available, cycling or walking are other great ways to help reduce air pollution in developing countries and local communities.
  3. Recycle: It takes more energy and natural resources to make new products for use. By using more energy and resources, the amount of air pollution produced also increases. The amount of energy and natural resources would be reduced by recycling previously used items.

Reducing air pollution would save lives and reduce the risks of many different diseases. Air pollution may seem like a formidable issue to tackle, but it can be both acknowledged and reduced.

Anyone can help reduce a small part of the air pollution around them. WHO released a challenge in May called “marathon a month.” This challenge calls for people to pledge to leave their personal transportation behind and use alternative transportation, like walking or cycling, for the equivalent of a marathon distance for one month.

Wherever someone may be, they can help those in their local community and in neighboring developing countries reduce air pollution and make the Earth a cleaner place.

– Victoria Fowler
Photo: Flickr

indoor air pollution in Burkina FasoIndoor air pollution from burning biomass is one of the 10 most significant threats to public health worldwide. Burkina Faso is one of the 21 countries most affected by indoor pollution. The country’s government has rolled out the National Biogas Program as part of its green economy initiative to reduce indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso.

Globally, more than three billion people cook with wood or charcoal. Exposure to indoor smoke from burning biomass is linked to pneumonia in children and chronic respiratory diseases in adults.

About 86 percent of Burkina Faso’s energy comes from burning biomass like firewood and charcoal. In rural areas, this percentage is often even higher. Approximately 16,500 deaths per year can be attributed to indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso.

The National Biogas Program has the potential to reduce indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso. The government of Burkina Faso, led by President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, is working in tandem with Dutch NGO Hivos and Dutch development organization SNV to install 40,000 biodigesters by 2024. The government of Burkina Faso subsidizes the biodigesters so that the technology is more affordable for poor households. 

Biodigesters are enclosed structures that break down animal dung and food waste into methane gas. The biogas can be piped into a stove for cooking. The nutrient-rich compost left over can be used as fertilizer. So far, 8,000 biodigesters have been installed.

Each biodigester creates 3.62 tons of CO2eq emission reduction per year. Transitioning to biodigesters is particularly impactful for women and children, who often spend hours collecting biomass to burn and who are typically responsible for household cooking. Biodigesters protect this vulnerable group from the harmful health effects of indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso.

Approximately 85 percent of Burkina Faso’s population lives in rural areas and works in agriculture. For these agrarian households, biodigesters produce economic benefits. Farmers with biodigesters produce natural, high-quality fertilizer, eliminating the need to buy chemical fertilizer. One 6m3 biodigester produces 20 tons of compost per year. 

Fields fertilized with slurry from biodigesters produce greater yields. The slurry also increases the soil’s capacity to hold rainwater, which is particularly important during droughts. 

Additionally, some regions of Burkina Faso have experienced wood scarcity. Biodigesters protect owners from increasing wood fuel prices.

Biodigesters also create tangible environmental benefits. About 46 percent of Burkina Faso’s territory suffers from soil degradation. Harvesting wood for energy has created a deforestation rate of 105,000 hectares per year. Biodigesters replace wood-burning stoves and thus reduce the amount of wood that must be harvested for energy each year. 

The U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism has issued the first carbon credits in Burkina Faso. The World Bank’s Carbon Initiative for Development (Ci-Dev) program is now purchasing carbon credits created by the biodigesters. Ci-Dev will purchase 540,000 certified emission reductions through 2024. This revenue stream is used to lower the price of biodigesters and to extend the warranty on the devices. With the numerous benefits of biodigesters, they are sure to have an impact not only on air pollution in Burkina Faso, but on may aspects of its people’s livs.

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr