With medical science now establishing that environmental factors may be contributing as much as 30 per cent to the total burden of illness in a given society, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Thursday said identifying occupational illnesses related to environment has become important.

Speaking at the inauguration of a three-day international conference on “Preventing Emerging Occupational and Environmental Risks in South Asia and Beyond,” the Chief Minister said occupational and environmental hazards are being noticed due to fast economic development and increasing utilisation of natural resources.

She said much of the burden of disease can be done away with by taking adequate measures for preventing and controlling the use of harmful chemicals. Ms. Dikshit advocated the need to have safer technologies and less harmful materials. She also stressed on generating and using more renewable energy.

Such measures, in turn, would lead to a lesser burden on the overcrowded hospitals. Apart from this, Ms. Dikshit said a better social security system was also needed for providing a helping hand to persons faced with occupational and environmental hazards. She said health and happiness instead of economic growth should be accepted as parameters for development of any nation.

Delhi Health Minister Kiran Walia spoke of how her department has been keen on making the health system affordable. She expressed confidence that the conference -- organised by the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Maulana Azad Medical College in collaboration with Collegium Ramazzini, Italy, and Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia -- would provide an opportunity to delegates to have a useful interaction.

During the conference, Philip J. Landrigan from the US expressed his views on environmental health risks to children while his compatriot Arthur Frank spoke on asbestos hazards with focus on Asia.

The conference is unique in the sense that it is being attended by academicians, employers and workers’ representatives, regulators and government officials, students and researchers, non-government organisations, activists and advocacy groups. It will come out with suggestions and recommendations that could have a bearing on the environmental and occupational health movement in India.

More In: Delhi