Gasp! Asthma on the rise – and we made it all possible


This morning, I woke up at 4.30 in the morning struggling to breathe. It’s another attack of asthma.

My lungs don’t know – and won’t care – that yesterday, 1 May, was World Asthma Day. All my long-suffering lungs need is some fresh air.

But in the increasingly polluted — and right now, incredibly humid — Greater Colombo, I’m not likely to find it any time soon.

World Asthma Day is designed to increase awareness of asthma as a global health problem. Those who live with Asthma, and suffer on a daily or weekly basis, know what it’s all about.

I’m among the lucker ones. My asthma is well under control most of the time, but an inhalor is never far away. In fact, asthma is my personal indicator of how clean or polluted the air is in places I visit on my frequent travels.

I’ve had bad attacks in Beijing and Kathmandu. No surprises there. But at least in the latter city, which I’ll be revisiting soon, my lungs feel that the air quality has been getting better.

So there is some good news, even if we have to look hard and dig deep for it. That’s part of the job for us journalists — and in this instance, I readily declare my self interest: I want to breathe more easily!

Last year, TVE Asia Pacific conducted a regional media training workshop on covering air quality issues in Asia. That was part of the Better Air Quality 2006 event, a large gathering of everyone concerned with cleaner air issues. It was held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in mid December 2006. Read TVE Asia Pacific website coverage of BAQ 2006 and the media training workshop.

Political, scientific and industry leaders made lofty statements about the value of clean air. Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia’s environment minister, said clean air was more important for Asians than even rice, the staple food for most Asians.

Inspired by the week-long event, I wrote an op ed essay that month titled ‘Grappling with Asia’s Tsunami of the Air’. It has appeared online at several websites.

Images courtesy TVE Asia Pacific

In that essay, I argued:

In the wake of the Asian Tsunami, some development and humanitarian groups used the phrase ‘silent tsunami’ to describe slowly unfolding emergencies that rarely attract much media coverage or global compassion. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan made frequent, passionate references to the ‘daily tsunami of poverty, hunger, disease and environmental degradation.’

It’s easy to call Asia’s air pollution induced sickness and death another silent tsunami. Except that there is nothing silent about it: the lung-corroding, heart-threatening, cancer-causing and blood-poisoning pollutants are released with a thunderous roar from the region’s cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles and other motorised vehicles. Anyone who has stood in a busy intersection in an Asian megacity knows exactly what I mean.

For the want of a phrase, we might call this Asia’s ‘tsunami of the air’.

And this tsunami is very much of our own making — let’s acknowledge that we are all part of the problem, some more than others. It makes us culpable for what India’s Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) once termed ‘slow murder’ by dirty air.

Read the full essay on One World South Asia


TVEAP News: Rising Asia chokes, but continues its quest for cleaner air

Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities

Images courtesy TVE Asia Pacific

Breaking News from Onion News Network: They know it all!

Some journalists and media organisations never allow the truth to get in the way of a good story.

Now, as broadcast television trades more substance for style, on-screen graphics is everything. Unless a news story is supported with gimmicky, flashy graphics, the networks seem to think, it won’t be news anymore.

This ONION TV News Parody shows how getting the graphics right is more important to TV networks than getting the meaning right. The story keeps shifting but the anchor remains authoritative — without knowing what the news is all about.

Breaking News: Something Happening In Haiti

According to their self introduction: The Onion News Network (ONN) has set the standard for globe-encompassing 24-hour television news since it was founded in December, 1892. The network boasts channels in 171 languages and can be viewed in 4.2 billion households in 811 countries. Now get the only news you need on the web and from our esteemed media partners.

Onion News Network Promo

Earlier post: Jib-Jab Video: What we call the news