NAIROBI, March 13 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Wednesday warned of increased human health risks if no action is taken to curb global environmental degradation.
In a statement of an environment report released after a five-year assessment, the UNEP warns that damage to the planet is so dire that people's health will be increasingly threatened unless urgent action is taken to protect the environment.
"Either we drastically scale up environmental protections, or cities and regions in Asia, the Middle East and Africa could see millions of premature deaths by mid-century," warns the sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO) report which was released at the ongoing fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.
It warns that polluting of freshwater systems will lead to anti-microbial resistance that will become the number one cause of death by 2050 and endocrine disruptors impact male and female fertility, as well as child neurodevelopment.
"Approximately 1.4 million people die annually from preventable diseases, such as diarrhoea and intestinal parasites that are associated with pathogen polluted drinking water and inadequate sanitation," it adds.
Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of UNEP urged the global community to opt for more sustainable development pathways.
"The science is clear that health and prosperity of humanity is directly tied with the state of environment," Msuya said at the launch.
She said that the report is an outlook of humanity, adding that the world will be in deeper problem if people fail to adjust as recommended by the report.
The UN official said that the health of the planet is today prioritizing health of the people hence the need to ensure that the planet is kept clean and safe for all.
The UN report shows that air pollution, which is currently the cause of six to seven million premature deaths per year, is projected to continue to have significant negative effects on health, and still cause between 4.5 million and seven million premature deaths annually by mid-century.
The report says that antibiotic-resistant infections are projected to become a main cause of death worldwide by 2050.
It calls for the use of affordable, widely available wastewater treatment technologies, to remove antibiotic residues.
"Even greater efforts should be made to control mismanagement of antibacterial drugs at source, in human and agricultural use," it says.
The scientists note that the health co-benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, including short-lived climate pollutants, together can outweigh the costs of mitigation, while achieving climate and air quality targets.