Southern Asians unaware of deadly health risks from polluted air

Nine out of 10 people breathe polluted air, according to the WHO, a problem that affects more cities in Asia than anywhere else in the world. (AFP)
Updated 28 March 2019

Southern Asians unaware of deadly health risks from polluted air

  • Air pollution kills about 7 million people prematurely each year, according to the World Health Organization
  • About 1.5 million of those deaths are in South and Southeast Asia

KUALA LUMPUR: Most people in South and Southeast Asia do not know about the diverse causes and long-term health risks of air pollution, a problem that kills 1.5 million people in those regions each year, researchers warned on Thursday.
A study by Vital Strategies, a public health advisory group, analyzed more than half a million news articles and social media posts on air pollution in 11 countries across southern Asia between 2015 and 2018.
“We see a lot of air pollution content in relation to the environment, climate change or deforestation, but not a lot that links it to health,” said Aanchal Mehta, the report’s lead author.
Air pollution kills about 7 million people prematurely each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.5 million of those deaths in South and Southeast Asia.
Nine out of 10 people breathe polluted air, according to the WHO, a problem that affects more cities in Asia than anywhere else in the world.
The health impact of air pollution is linked to strokes, lung cancer and heart disease — and is now equal to the effects of smoking tobacco, health experts say.
As well as news articles, the Vital Strategies researchers analyzed social media posts, blogs and online forums.
The study found that the public debate on air pollution largely focused on vehicle emissions, which resulted in policymakers looking only at one cause of the problem.
But in much of South and Southeast Asia, those emissions are not the biggest or only source of air pollution, said Mehta.
Other major causes, which vary from country to country, include coal power plants, construction, festival fireworks, forest clearing, and burning of crops, firewood and waste.
Most of the news and social media posts highlighted the more immediate effects of air pollution, like itchy eyes and coughing, rather than the risks from chronic exposure.
“This points to the fact that people don’t attribute or understand that air pollution has longer-term health impacts,” Singapore-based Mehta told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Emotionally-charged content, such as on children’s health, gained the most engagement, which could help in the development of strategies to tackle air pollution, researchers noted.
More government awareness campaigns were needed on the chronic risks linked to air pollution, Mehta said.
“There is a dire need to look at long-term, practical and effective solutions to the issue of air pollution,” Oswar Mungkasa, Jakarta’s deputy governor for spatial planning and environment, said in a statement on the report.


Discover Bahrain's Indigo Restaurant’s rooftop riches

Enjoy Asian-Mediterranean flavors at Bahrain’s five-star boutique hotel. (Supplied)
Updated 23 August 2019

Discover Bahrain's Indigo Restaurant’s rooftop riches

MANAMA: You wouldn’t expect to find a palatial and tranquil rooftop restaurant smack in the middle of Bahrain’s oldest and busiest commercial center, the Manama Souq. Yet just a few meters from the iconic 70-year old Bab Al Bahrain lies Indigo Restaurant, the in-house eatery of five-star boutique hotel The Merchant House.

From the moment you step into the restaurant foyer, this fine-dining establishment promises respite from the summer heat, traffic snarls and mayhem of the capital city down below. Once seated, take a moment to appreciate the stately décor. With plenty of floral furnishing, flora, and foliage in aureate lighting, it’s like sitting in a greenhouse (without the heat). Add in the rustic wood furniture and striking artwork (by local Bahraini artists) and Indigo Restaurant is an ideal venue for both a casual evening sipping mocktails with friends or a celebratory three-course meal with that special someone.

Large French doors open onto an expansive terrace with mist machines, a trickling pool, backyard lighting, and no-fuss seating. It’s a fairytale setting worthy of staging a production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The menu is a fusion of Asian and Mediterranean food, so patrons can expect a lot of fresh, seasonal ingredients paired with piquant Asian flavors. Take, for example, the restaurant’s best-selling appetizer, the Beef Rib Samjang — cherry wood-smoked beef rib served with Korean-style sweet-chili sauce atop crisp, Belgian endive. The appetizer comes with a side of the pipirrana salad — a Spanish classic. A simple goat-cheese salad is elevated with marinated figs, lavash crisps, and a Japanese-style yuzu hazelnut dressing.

To create such distinctive flavors, executive chef Robert Shipman draws on his two decades of experience in southern Europe and, later, with chef Nobu Matsuhisa (of the acclaimed Nobu Restaurant in Dubai and the more recent Nobu Jeddah pop-up). Shipman specializes in Asian cuisine and is renowned for his Greek-Japanese fusion meals in Cyprus. He also brings flavors from the Maldives, Ibiza, and Morocco to Indigo’s menu. Alongside cured and raw meats and sushi, the menu also features a small selection of burgers, including classics like mushroom and Wagyu burgers. The pasta and risotto offerings — tagliatelle Napolitana, risotto funghi, and prawn tagiatelle — are kept strictly Italian.

Shipman says he defers to restaurant patrons for a winning menu. A main that has won the popular vote is the sesame and nigella seed crusted and sautéed hammour. The crunch of the outer crust compliments the soft meat of the fillet and the accompanying bok choy and Moroccan chermoula sauce lend bitter and sweet flavors.

Although the flavor pairings remain more or less the same — meat slow-cooked with balsamic sauce, garlic, and thyme — Shipman’s 18-hour lamb shank stands out from those on other menus in the region. The lamb comes apart effortlessly, giving you a mouthful of meat soaked in balsamic sauces, buttery-soft herb polenta, and dry cherry. It is an ambrosial main.

A summer night calls for a light desert, and the frutti di bosco hits the right spot with assorted forest berries, airy honeycomb crisp, crème de Violette marshmallows, and a dollop of passion cream to offset the tartness of the berries. The Kaffir lime panna cotta with fresh mango sauce, and the yuzu white chocolate cheesecake with walnut halva also come highly recommended, but there is only so much one can devour in an evening. Still, the fresh flavors and the summer garden are enough incentive to come back for more.