PETALING JAYA - The United Nations has called for urgent action by governments in the Asia Pacific to tackle the issue of worsening air quality.
"The ongoing problem of air pollution between Indonesia and Singapore is symptomatic of a much wider challenge for the countries of Asia and the Pacific.
"Cross-boundary pollution is politically complex, but it must be urgently addressed," said United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap) executive secretary Dr Noeleen Heyzer.
These issues, she said, must be tackled at regional, national and local levels.
"We need more effective frameworks to manage ecosystem services, such as air and water, which transcend administrative and political boundaries," said Dr Noeleen.
Calling for governments to do more, and with greater urgency, she said there was no point investing in healthcare systems if, at the same time, basic environmental resources were destroyed for development.
"In our efforts to build a more sustainable region, we must ensure that preventing the pollution of our air, water, food, and other common regional goods is given the highest possible priority.
"The nexus of air, water, food, energy and land is not simply an environmental one - this is where social, economic and environmental concerns converge," she said.
Dr Noeleen added that the most serious and directly damaging impact of air pollution was the concentration of particulates, which increase the risk of heart and lung diseases as well as cancer.