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Breathe easy: UAE's household air quality is best in the world

By Vicky Kapur

The UAE’s household air quality ranks No. 1 in the world according to a Yale University study that assessed 178 nations on various parameters for its 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

With an overall score of 72.91 out of 100, the UAE ranks at No. 25 on Yale’s EPI 2014, which ranks 178 countries across the world on the basis of their air quality, status of biodiversity and water and sanitation across 14 key environmental parameters.

“A ‘global scorecard’ provides first-time insight as to collective policy impacts on the major environmental issues of our time. Overall, improvements have been made in many of the categories of the Environmental Health objective, including Access to Drinking Water, Child Mortality, and Access to Sanitation, though Air Quality has declined,” the EPI 2014 report states.

However, the UAE ranks among a handful of countries (29) that score a perfect 100 on Household Air Quality, along with GCC neighbour Qatar and regional peers Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Iran.

Overall, Switzerland tops the EPI 2014 rankings with a score of 87.67, followed by Luxembourg (83.29), Australia (82.40), Singapore (81.78) and Czech Republic (81.47). Bringing the rear of the 178-country rankings are #178 Somalia (15.47), Mali (18.43), Haiti (19.01), Lesotho (20.81) and Afghanistan (21.57).

According to the report, since 1990, more than two billion people have gained access to improved drinking water and proper sanitation, exceeding Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets and improving global well-being.

In Afghanistan alone, the percentage of households with access to clean drinking water shot up from 5 per cent in 1991 to 61 per cent in 2011. Ethiopia has also been able to connect more of its villages to safe drinking water through investment from the national government and international aid. These great successes resulted from a well-organised measurement system that allowed policymakers to track their performance, identify priority needs, and create mechanisms to maintain accountability.

There has been similar success in the protection of natural habitats. Well-organised data systems and clearly established targets have led to widespread increase in protected areas, like Mount Cameroon National Park in Cameroon. Cameroon established the park in 2009 because data showed the area is home to some of the most threatened mammal species in the world.

Likewise, Peru is one of the few countries to carefully analyse its territory to identify areas where critically threatened or endangered species exist, and to specifically protect these areas. What these results demonstrate is that targeted, data-driven investments do deliver progress.