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Joahannesburg Summit 2002
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Causes of Asian Brown Cloud Must Be Addressed by Johannesburg Summit

New York, 16 August— The three-kilometre thick layer of haze that hangs over a wide expanse of territory covering South Asia to South East Asia is a direct result of the damaging development trends that the World Summit on Sustainable Development must help reverse, according to Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai.

Known as the "Asian Brown Cloud," the haze is comprised of particulate matter from various aerosols, most caused by burning fossil fuels and is causing lower temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, including floods and droughts.

"This cloud of pollution is a direct consequence of the unsustainable use of energy in the region," Desai said. "It causes respiratory disease and it wreaks havoc on agriculture. And it is also something we can do something about, if we are committed."

More than 100 presidents and prime ministers have indicated that they will participate in the Summit in Johannesburg, which begins on 26 August and runs through 4 September. They will be joined by thousands of government delegates, NGOs, and business leaders looking to find ways to improve people's well being while protecting the environment.

The Summit is taking place at a time when unsustainable development practices are being blamed in a number of environmental disasters, ranging from the Asian Brown Cloud to exacerbating drought conditions in Southern Africa, flooding in the Czech Republic, and unprecedented melting in polar regions.

"The Johannesburg Summit really is an opportunity to embark on something different, to break the cycle of business as usual. We can commit ourselves to use our water and our energy resources in a manner that helps everyone live better, healthier lives, and protect the ecosystems that support us. We have the knowledge, the technology and the resources. We need the willpower."

Desai said the Asian Brown Cloud is a classic example of why international support is necessary to confront a common enemy. "The Brown Cloud does not recognize borders, and it indiscriminately hurts people, in their health and in their livelihoods, wherever they live."

The brown cloud, Desai said shows how problems are linked and must be addressed in a comprehensive manner. "If we want to address issues of agriculture, health and water," Desai said, "then we have to address energy. We simply have no other choice but to shift to energy sources that will not harm our air, but allow us to pursue economic growth."

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24 August 2006