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The Town of the XXI Century 

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The Town of the XXI Century
Series of reports on ecological situation in Central Asia

THE LADY'S FACE OF THE PLANET

Concentration of people in large cities is a harmful trend in itself. All wastes originating from plants and animals, thrown out by people, rot and develop badly smelling gases, which poison the air and have harmful effects on the health of the people. This was written by Fridrich Engels in 1884. Luckily some of the things have changes since that time at least in the developed countries. But it seems that in the countries, which are usually considered as being developing, the time has stopped at the level of 1884 and Engels' words about the air poisoned by badly smelling evaporations are easily recollected, when you find yourself in one of the African or Asian states placed at the far end of development of the human civilization. For example, in the North of Mexico city, near Santa Fe dirty sewage is poured into the nearby small river. In in the capital of Marocco thick smell left by the herds of domestic animals covers the streets.

It seems that as years pass by pollution gets worse in many African countries. For example, many Latin American cities are dying because of the lack of fresh air. In poor countries population grows so fast that authorities just do not have opportunities to build new water supply systems in the poor parts of the cities. For one billion people on our planet fresh water still represents an unreachable luxury: long lines stand to get the water and it tuns from the water supply system's tubes only in certain hours of the day. Specialists have calculated that annually dirty water kills more than 2 million children. In Latin American, African and Asian countries the "lungs" of the planet - forests - are disappearing. This not only changes the climate of the planet, but also has harmful effects on the economic development of the countries. Last year's forest fires in Indonesia resulted in the appearance of the thick cloud of smog, which covered large portions of the territory of South East Asia. Many tourists from Europe and America dropped the idea to visit South-East Asian countries: thus punishing the economy of these countries. The situation can be repeated.

Last year World bank specialists calculated that air and water pollution in China costs this country 54 billion dollars, which is equal to about 8% of this country's GDP. And in the beginning of 1990s the costs associated to curing diseases caused by air pollution in Jakarta and Bangkok stood at about 10% of these cities' incomes.

World Resources Institute together with other organizations dealing with the human development programs, publishes results of serious studies providing the full picture of the situation, which currently exists in the world at the turn of the century. Particularly, in the World Resources Yearbook, there is a special section covering the role of women in the life of the planet and harmful influence of destruction of the nature, or as specialists say, of the inhabitable surroundings, on people's lives and especially on women and children, because as it has been already said, they represent the most vulnerable part of the population. Of course, first of all, we talk about women living in small towns and villages and not about the ones living in large civilized cities, where in the worst case the electricity or hot water supply may be shut out for a few hours.

At the same time in developing countries a big problem is represented even by finding the clean water usable for drinking and cooking. In some countries women spend four hours only to find enough water for the family and domestic animals. Often they carry this water for 20 kilometers on their shoulders, backs or heads.

Women represent half of the planet's population. The largest part of this half does not the same access to land, technology, education, participation in political processes as men do. In every society women play an important role. For example, in rural areas they take care of the huge numbers of house-keeping tasks. They are responsible for the health of all family members and especially children, they take care of the domestic animals, they cook food. Life shows that in many countries women play a more important role in child births, in taking care of the health, in educating the new generations and in managing natural resources.

In some countries of Asia and Africa destruction of the environment and degradation of crop lands serve as a cause for adding extra work to the heavy women's workloads. For example, because of deforestation women have to walk for many kilometers searching for fire wood. Often they carry more than 35 kilograms of fire wood for more than 10 kilometers. In the Himalayas women spend more than two hours every day searching for wood. This is much more than was spent on the same work a generation ago. Within ten years in Sudan the time spent by women in search of fire fuel has increased four times. In the regions where there is a lack of food women have to limit the amount of cooked hot food.

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