A report by the World Bank Group, entitled “Blue Skies, Blue Seas Air Pollution, Marine Plastics, and Coastal Erosion in the Middle East and North Africa”, said that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are among the world’s most polluted regions. It added that that if a green economy policy is adopted challenges can turn into opportunities in the region, as reported by the Jordan Times.
The report also highlights the main developmental challenges and opportunities the MENA region faces as it strives to meet the continuously evolving needs of its people.
The report overview on the website reads, “While economic and social indicators in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have improved, the region’s blue natural assets — clean air, healthy seas, and coastlines — have degraded nearly everywhere. The human and economic price of this deterioration of blue assets is immense, costing more than 3% of GDP per year. As MENA countries recover from COVID-19, there is an opportunity to shift to a greener, more resilient, and inclusive development pathway that reverses natural resource degradation and environmental pollution – plus builds resilience to climate change.”
Air pollution levels in the region’s biggest cities are considered some of the highest across the globe. The report said that the average urban resident breathes air that exceeds the maximum level of pollutants considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO) by more than 10 times.
According to the World Bank Organization, air pollution leads to approximately 270,000 deaths on an annual basis, which is more than those caused by traffic accident , diabetes, malaria TB, HIV/AIDS and acute hepatitis put together.
“The average MENA resident is ill at least 60 days in their lifetime due to exposure to elevated air pollution levels,” the report indicated.– Blue Skies, Blue Seas: Air Pollution, Marine Plastics, and Coastal Erosion in the Middle East and North Africa Report
The report pointed out that the economic costs of air pollution in the MENA region are immense, around $141 billion per year.
Marine Plastic Pollution
Regarding marine plastic pollution, the report recommended improving solid waste management, creating reliable market structures for recycling markets and increased collaboration with the private sector for plastic alternatives. In addition to decreasing fossil fuel subsidies, which artificially push down the price of plastics.
“The average resident in the MENA region contributes more than 6kg of plastic waste to the sea”– Blue Skies, Blue Seas: Air Pollution, Marine Plastics, and Coastal Erosion in the Middle East and North Africa Report
“MENA’s shorelines are eroding at the second fastest rate globally,” the study claims, stressing that the disappearance of the regoion’s beaches is a threat to livelihood, especially those with the lowest income.
Among the negative results of shrinking coastlines is the impairment of fisheries, reduced coastal tourism and compromised related activities, the report noted.