Rights group: Protecting nature reduces future epidemic risks
MANILA, Philippines—A human rights group composed of lawmakers from different Southeast Asian nations called for a better way to combat climate change and environmental destruction to lower the risk of future health emergencies, including pandemics.
The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights argued that deforestation and rapid urbanization has a direct link to increased risks of epidemics in the Southeast Asian region.
“The Coronavirus pandemic we are currently facing teaches us an important lesson; we must anticipate and address crises before they are upon us, and panic sets in,” said Walden Bello in a statement.
Bello is a board member of APHR and was the Representative for the Akbayan partylist in the Philippine Congress from 2007 to 2015.
“The good news is that we can reduce the risk of future pandemics by addressing climate change and deforestation. To do that, we need ASEAN governments to clearly and officially commit to submitting more ambitious climate action plans 2021,” added Bello.
APHR argued that the emergence of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, grown considerably since the 1940s with the closer proximity to wildlife contributing to the increase.
Southeast Asian governments, the group said, have provided a lack of protective measures against deforestation, ecosystem disruption, and biodiversity.
Sarah Elago, APHR member and Kabataan Partylist Representative, said Southeast Asia had lost 32 million hectares of forest since 1990, putting the region at high risk for infectious diseases.
Apart from COVID-19, APHR said that the Southeast Asian region is in danger of experiencing a heightened risk in pandemics, including malaria, cholera, and dengue.
“Our governments have to act swiftly against deforestation by increasing protected areas and environmental safeguards against investment projects if we want to reduce the risk of reliving COVID-19 pandemics,” said Elago.
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