Lesson 1: Mitigation Measures
Aim: The section details direct and indirect controls to mitigate adverse impact of the environment on health. Measures include policy models and required modifications and further development of infrastructure.
Learning Objectives: At the end of this section , you will be able to learn
1. Strategic depiction of two levels of controls /mitigation measures. First one i.e Directional which elaborates measures that can be adopted by global and country level policy makers. And actional measures the ones, which should be practised by bringing in the changes or substituting/adopting technologies, standards , strategies and practices which will lead to lesser pollutant emissions at the source itself and thereby less health impacts.
2. Various controls which can be implemented to mitigate impact on health.
4.1.1 Directional Controls/Measures: Based on the evidence of the linkages between poor environmental quality and health, some urgent policy attention and actions are required on the following.
Improve indoor household and ambient air quality to enable reductions in morbidity and enhance the quality of life of local populations and across borders, including through sustainable urban design which can also contribute to increase physical activity through the provision of green spaces, to prevent and reduce non-communicable diseases and poor health;
Replace and reduce the utilization of hazardous chemicals and generation of toxic waste, and ensure sound management of chemicals and wastes;
Intensify progress in providing safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene services to reduce mortality, morbidity, and losses in economic productivity;
Restore and protect degraded ecosystems and mitigate stresses to the Earth’s natural systems in order to enhance ecosystem services that support human health, reduce exposure to natural disasters, enhance food security, and prevent the emergence of novel pathogens and disease outbreaks and contribute to the improvement of nutritional diet quality
4.1.2 Actional Controls/Measures : A framework of four integrated lines of actions is recommended to address the nexus of environment and health. An actionable measure is one that ties specific and repeatable actions to observe results. The actionable controls will start from strategy level settings until ground level implementation, including individuals actions and commitments.
Image Source: UNEP Publication -Healthy environment healthy people
DETOXIFY: Remove harmful substances from and/or mitigate their impact on the environment in which people live and work. This will, for example, address air pollution, through reducing black carbon emitted by household and non-household sources and other pollutants and ensure that emission concentrations do not exceed WHO recommended targets for particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide or the reduction of pesticides use, through the promotion of integrated pest management and organic and sustainable farming systems. It will require a stronger focus on the sound management of chemicals and waste and on implementing a life-cycle approach to chemicals and waste management.
DECARBONIZE: Reduce the use of carbon fuels and thereby emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) through substitution of non-carbon energy. Over their life cycle, the pollution-related human health and environmental impacts of solar, wind and hydropower are a factor of 3 to 10 times lower than fossil-fuel power plants. Investing in green energy at household level will accrue other benefits, including more time for income-generating activities, reduced health risks from carrying heavy loads of firewood over long distances, and more leisure time available for women, among others. The nationally determined contributions (NDCs) committed to under the Paris Agreement on climate change can be important vehicles for decarbonization, and consequent health and well-being improvements.
DECOUPLE RESOURCE USE AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS AND CHANGE LIFESTYLES: Use fewer resources per unit of economic output produced and reduce the environmental impacts of production and consumption activities.This is about generating the needed economic activity and value to sustain the world’s population with less resource use, less waste, less pollution and less environmental degradation. Important health benefits can be gained from decoupling opportunities in the food sector, in water use, in energy consumption and through recycling and more sustainable household consumption. For example, shifts in consumption from animal to plant based products,and improved diet composition and quality as well as increased access to urban green areas have positive implications for health and addressing non-communicable diseases and mental health. Youth engagement, awareness raising and education in particular need to be prioritized to achieve this.
ENHANCE ECOSYSTEM RESILIENCE: Build the capacity of the environment, economies and societies to anticipate, respond to and recover from disturbances and shocks through: protection and conservation of genetic diversity, terrestrial, coastal and marine biodiversity; strengthening ecosystem restoration, in particular of wetlands, dryland vegetation, coastal zones and watersheds including through reforestation as well as agro-ecosystem restoration and sustainable farming systems; reducing pressures from livestock production and logging on natural ecosystems to increase resilience and mitigate extreme weather conditions of storms, drought and floods. Sustainable land and forest management, along with conservation and restoration, will protect and enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services. This will lead to improved absorption of rainwater into the soil, increased water storage and availability, more biomass, and greater food security, thus reducing malnutrition. These restorative activities will not only ensure food security, but also nurture cultural, social and recreational activities, and bring economic growth for local populations and businesses.
4.2 Sustainable Developmental Goals are closely interlinked with environmental and social determinants of health: The environment directly influences health in many ways, including through harmful exposures, inadequate infrastructure, degraded ecosystems and poor working conditions; environmental risks, such as climate change and household air pollution often disproportionally affect the poor and poorer countries. Limited access to environmental services and infrastructure, such as safe water and sanitation, impacts more on women and girls, and may limit their access to education. Environmental and social impacts lead to poorer health, and poor health further precipitates people into poverty through increased health-care expenditures, loss of shelter, lost income, or increased expenditure to compensate for inadequate services.
UNEP’s role in environmental sustainability for the 2030 Agenda can be seen here as an interactive diagram, but shown below is taken from that report.
4.3 Conclusion – Towards Healthier Environment
There is substantial evidence that environmental degradation has a direct bearing on human health through mortality, morbidity and well-being, including mental health, with disproportionate impacts on women and children. Current global environmental trends risk reversing decades of progress in health and development through the combined effects of climate change, biodiversity loss and the degradation of the earth’s natural systems that support human health. In order to meet this challenge, actions to address critical environment and health linkages are key. Moving from a reactive to a proactive policy approach will mitigate risks that could otherwise develop into full-scale environment and health emergencies, limiting and even preventing cri-ses that could cripple a country’s economic, political and physical infrastructure. The degradation of our environment has been estimated to be responsible for at least 23 per cent of all deaths globally, but these estimates do not take into account the effects of emerging global environmental changes. This report highlights critical areas of improvement including reducing indoor and outdoor air pollution, improving water safety further, reducing exposure to hazardous chemicals, addressing lifestyle-related health threats and improving ecosystem resilience to floods and droughts. It also offers proven successes of policies, implementation and tools. These are essential not only for improving health, but for human well-being, mental health and ultimately the grounds for the happiness of children and families across the world.
Protecting the environment and investing in the protection, conservation and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems can provide a platform and tools to improve human health and well-being, including that of women and girls who, facing persistent inequalities, are disproportionately affected by damages to the environment and the ecosystem, and is key to successfully meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and targets. In conclusion, addressing the nexus between the environment and human health by delivering on environmental sustainability can provide a common platform for meeting many of the Sustainable Development Goals. Through multiplier effects that can accelerate and sustain progress across multiple Goals, investing in environmental sustainability can serve as an insurance policy for health and human well-being. It is important on efficiency grounds, but also for distributive justice, and to address the ethical and legal obligations of States.