Environmental pollution is one of the greatest existential challenges facing the world today, threatening the balance of the earth’s support systems and posing a risk to humanity, particularly in the low and middle-income countries. In Asia’s developing countries, formal regulation of pollution is hindered by the lack of clear and legally binding rules, insufficient institutional capacity, inadequate equipment and trained personnel compounded by rapid economic activity resulting in toxic pollution. As a result, people in developing nations of Asia are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of environmental pollution. A study conducted by WHO estimated that 12.6 million deaths globally, representing almost a quarter of all deaths, were attributable to the environmental conditions. In Asia, including Bangladesh, millions of lives could be saved by stemming environmental risks in people’s homes, workplaces, and communities through addressing issues of air and noise pollution, inadequate water and sanitation, chemical exposures, occupational risks, the built environment, and climate change. Asian societies are increasingly vulnerable to climate risk with many low-lying coastal cities exposed to risks of flood and typhoon, increases in intensity of heat, humidity, precipitation and, in some places, drought.. Moreover, Bangladesh is at the epicenter of the global climate crisis – 80% of the country is a low-lying floodplain, affected by floods, storms, riverbank erosions, cyclones, and droughts. The country ranks seventh on the Global Climate Risk Index of countries most affected by extreme weather and climate change has become an existential crisis.
AUW’s Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Health (CCCEH), which started its journey in April 2021, will bring together scholars, policymakers, and practitioners to address environmental health and climate change issues. Drawing on local and international experience and expertise, the Centre will adopt a transdisciplinary approach towards creating a new conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and translational innovations that integrate and move beyond discipline-specific strategies to address a common problem in the field. The aim is to provide leadership in the Asian region in environmental health and climate change through teaching, training, research, grassroots initiatives, and evidence-based policymaking.
Apart from delivering a postgraduate program in climate studies and environmental health, at its core, the Centre will support the mission of the University to create leadership capacity among women in Asian region by improving their access to education, training and enhanced facilities. Evidence shows that the effects of climate change affect women more severely than men. Between 1980 and 2000, for example, there was an increase of women with lung cancer, while chronic obstructive pulmonary disease death rate rose much faster for women than for men; women are at a higher risk of lung cancer due to their exposure to smoke from coal fires in their homes. The center will aim to bring women researchers from across the Asian region, educate them and equip them with the necessary skills and training to undertake research in climate and environmental issues. Our own graduates will work closely with women and parents to enhance their awareness on how to live a lower carbon lifestyle and ways in which to protect their children from environmental hazards.
The Centre will draw Faculty from across the University who will undertake teaching and research in the field of climate change and environmental health. Academics will work in collaboration with Universities – national and international – and will bring together scholars, policy makers, practitioners and local businesses and provide a focus for innovators to implement global change through pioneering, practical solutions.