In his opening address, the President said the World Environment Day, on 5 June 2019 is the most important day for highlighting environmental conservation around the world. This year’s World Environment Day was being hosted by the People’s Republic of China with national and regional campaigns for the protection of the environment being held across the world.
There was no denying that environmental issues were affecting the entire world, including Myanmar. Many of these were not exclusive to any country, and “air pollution” was one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. To highlight this issue, the theme of World Environment Day this year, 2019 was “Beat Air Pollution”.
It was most obviously necessary for the health of human-beings to breathe fresh air, meanwhile we also need clean drinking water and access for food safety.
That was why, today’s ceremony was being celebrated with the theme of “Beat Air Pollution” in order to make the Myanmar people aware of the issues.
When we think about air pollution’s impacts, it was needed to consider Indoor Air Pollution and Outdoor Air Pollution. According to UN Environment research, about 4.3 million people die every year from respiratory diseases caused by Indoor Air Pollution. The major source of Indoor Air Pollution was burning of wood, charcoal and other fossil fuels for cooking. Moreover, Outdoor Air Pollution can be caused by the emissions from Industry, Energy, Transport and Agriculture sectors as well as by forest fire, sand and dust storms. Annually, about 3.7 million people suffered from Outdoor Air Pollution around the world. Globally, South-east Asia and the West Pacific were the most affected areas, especially to the children and women.
Actions needed to be taken to prevent or reduce incineration of plastic and other waste in open fields which causes air pollution, impacts on human health and contributes to climate change. Only half of the world’s populations residing in urban areas have access to clean air.
So, the theme of this year indicates that air pollution issue is an environmental challenge which has to be solved continually as a priority issue.
The most obvious economic impact of air pollution was the cost to public health. According to World Bank data, air pollution costs the global economy 5 trillion US dollars every year. For example, in 2011, America spent 131 billion US dollars for health care costs associated with energy emissions. Oxford University Research showed that emissions from vehicles and trains cost society about 6 billion pounds annually. The European Environment Agency, found emissions from 14,000 industrial facilities had cost society and the economy totaling 189 billion Euros in 2012.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had predicted that Outdoor Air Pollution could cause premature deaths which cost from 18 to 25 trillion US dollars worldwide per year by 2060.
And, again, a breath of fresh air was necessary for our daily lives. That was why taking fast action on air pollution was discussed at the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly held in March 2019.
In Myanmar, air quality was relatively good, especially when compared to industrialized countries. But as we grow, Myanmar could not expect to maintain clean air unless we actively worked for it. Nowadays, Myanmar was promoting investment in the industrial sector including industrial zones. Moreover, urbanization and increased use of vehicles in urban areas were contributing to growing air pollution including greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to hazardous waste issues. So, it was necessary to systematically tackle the problem by undertaking strong environmental management planning and mainstreaming waste and air pollution control in the relevant sectors.
When we look at practical ways to clean air quality in our environment, there were many things we can do. We need to encourage the use of good quality machinery, tools and technologies that can reduce air pollution.
Investing in renewable energy sources for electricity generation, such as solar, wind and hydropower, minimizing and effectively disposing of waste rather than uncontrolled incineration, matching technologies to emission standards and supporting villages by providing clean fuel stoves can significantly reduce air pollution. Moreover, we can help and make our cities healthier by adopting better transportation options and designing smart transport systems, by formulating standards to control emissions from vehicles, and by undertaking systematic monitoring. I would like to urge all of you to recognize that there has already been plenty of technologies and experiences that Myanmar can draw on. This was why international cooperation was so important for formulating long term strategies.
During this summer, between March and April, Myanmar-Thailand border areas faced an issue of transboundary haze pollution mainly caused by forest fire. As Myanmar is a party to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, we had to tackle the problems of Transboundary Haze Pollution, through prevention, control and monitoring actions in cooperation with neighboring countries and international organizations.
In line with the guidance of the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan- MSDP, the National Environment Policy, the Climate Change Policy, and Climate Change Strategy and Master Plan have been approved by the cabinet and were being disseminated in this ceremony in order to mainstream environmental conservation and climate change mitigation activities in all relevant sectors. He was greatly honored to launch these policies in this auspicious ceremony. These policies, strategy and master plan have to be implemented effectively in the relevant sectors through short- and long-term development plans and investments, respectively.
As all of you are aware, air pollution was the core reason for regional and global climate change. On its account, reducing air pollution supports greenhouse gas reduction which causes climate change through global warming process. He believed that air pollution could be prevented by mainstreaming National Waste Management Strategy and Master Plan into Myanmar Climate Change Policy, Strategy and Master Plan.
There was no doubt that Myanmar had confidence to achieve sustainable and harmonious development which balances economic, social and environmental pillars. It could be achieved by understanding current promulgated environment policy and climate change policy, environmental conservation laws, by-laws, rules and regulations, guidelines in the relevant ministries, civil society, businesses, technicians, students and people, and also contributing to the development projects, investments and sustainable development activities, based on the technology and experiences with international best practices through reducing greenhouse gas emission and development of air pollution management plan.
He wanted to extend his appreciation and thanks to the international organizations like European Union (EU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN-Habitat, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA), Norwegian Environment Agency (NEA), World Wide Fund (WWF), and Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) for their technical and financial assistance in developing these policies, strategy and master plan. He urged all those present at the meeting to cooperate with Myanmar in implementing these to achieve their targets.
It was necessary for all countries, with their common sense, to keep their air and water environment away from pollution because clean air and water were essential for human lives. Deteriorating global environment could only be restored in time by all-inclusive cooperation worldwide. The task of saving the world’s environment could only be completed by the wise support and participation of each and every one all over the world.
In summary, the policies and the procedures such as the vision of National Environment Policy which is “a clean environment, with healthy and functioning ecosystems, that ensures inclusive development and wellbeing for all people in Myanmar”, the vision of Climate Change Policy which is “climate-resilient, low carbon society that is sustainable, prosperous and inclusive for the wellbeing of present and future generations” and the vision of National Waste Management Strategy and Master Plan which is “Sustainable, Green, Clean and Healthy, Environment towards a brighter future” have been approved by the Government for combatting air pollution according to today’s theme.
In conclusion, the President said he wished to urge Myanmar citizens, including all those present, to participate for the current and future sustainable development of Myanmar by changing daily lifestyles in order to support environmental conservation. He added that he would also like to urge again to beat air pollution as an important part of Myanmar’s sustainable development to benefit Myanmar society as a whole.
Afterwards, Resident Coordinator of the UN Mr. Peter Batchelor read the message from the UN Secretary-General.
The Myanmar National Environmental Policy and Myanmar National Climate Change Policy, Strategy and Master Plan (2018-2030) were declared with the approval of the Union Government meeting No. 22/2018 and 4/2019.
Afterwards, the President presented awards to winners of the article and essay competitions, school cleaning activities and video clip competitions held to mark the World Environment Day for 2019.