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Environmental Issues For The Countries Of Asia Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 2285 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Asia and its various countries have considerable environmental issues which are cause for concern if not managed effectively. Most of these issues stem from the introduction of capitalism, which has meant rapid industrialisation at a pace difficult to keep up with. Environmental issues arising from capitalism are exploitation of land and natural resources, with devastating effects. Rapid population growth has seen an increase in air pollution and has also been a major issue in developing countries. This paper will look at some of the important environmental issues in Japan, China and Indonesia. It will also look at what governments and transnational organisations have done to address them.

Currently, environmental issues are population, water eutrophication, air pollution, waste management, nature conservation, chemical management and international co-operation for environmental conservation [1] .

Japan currently has one of the world’s highest life expectancies at 81.25 and ranked at the 10th most populated country with 127 million in 2006 [2] . It has been anticipated that due to falling birth-rates the population will be lower in the long term, yet the current ageing population will rise from 6% to 15% by 2025 [3] . One issue is how the smaller, younger working generations will support the larger ageing generations [4] and what plans the government has in store to address these issues.

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From an environmental viewpoint, on one hand the workforce and younger generations contribute to the economy, and so balance out their own greater energy consumption. However it is thought that the older generation will ultimately consume more energy via the residential sector [5] . Another issue is how to keep Japan’s modest natural resources for e.g. land, air and water healthy for future generations [6] to enjoy.

Lake Biwa provides a good example of water eutrophication. Post Second World War economic activities led to economic growth of Japan [7] . Due to no knowledge of water quality management, contamination from local industry and agricultural runoff led to rapid and intense pollution and deterioration of many water systems e.g. Lake Biwa’s plankton biomass, red and bluegreen algae blooms and eventual high rate of eutrophication [8] .The introduction of wastewater treatment, banning of certain detergents containing polyphosphates and construction of wetlands to support drainage by local government and community efforts led to a halt in degradation [9] .

At the same time as Lake Biwa, Minamata Bay was being poisoned. “Minamata Disease” was not ‘discovered’ until it was realised that approximately 4000 victims [10] had in common the fact they had all eaten fish from the Minamata Bay. After years of testing, along with protests from the Nippon Chisso Company who had a defective production process for acetaldehyde, it was finally determined that massive amounts of mercury had been dumped into the bay by the same company, and had caused much suffering and death [11] .

Industrialisation has caused air pollution to be a major issue in Japan. In the 1950’s and 60’s it experienced levels of pollution 3-5 times higher than current national ambient air quality standards [12] hence very high rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses [13] 

Japan’s population, limited resources and past environmental experiences have meant moving toward more sustainable development. The government has recognised the need to address these problems.

The “Millennium Project” is one strategy whereby the government is committed to achieving set “Millennium Development Goals” to help reverse international problems of poverty and sustainable development [14] . Concurrently, ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) began a study called “A study on Economic Social Structure in the 21st Century”, which manages issues of ageing impact on the environment. Strict regulations; strong monitoring abilities; overhauling of relevant legislative framework; setting new standards and monetary assistance for research on sustainable technologies have been effective in the implementation of environmental policy [15] . Family policy was implemented in the shape of pension reform; the introduction of the LTCI (Long Term Care Insurance) and its reform in 2005 [16] and Health Policy [17] . All are all ways in which the government and transnational organisations have attempted to address the environmental problems.


According to Thavasi and Ramakrishna, China represents 20% of the global population with 1.3 billion people. There is no doubt that the urbanisation of the Chinese population and environmental issues are directly connected. The link between population growth, the need for economic growth and energy consumption unfortunately overlaps with agriculture, natural resources and industrial activities. This overlap is has a negative impact upon human health and the immediate environment, and according to Bannister is irreparable in the medium term [18] .

Many would agree that air pollution is one of China’s major environmental issues and is determined by some to be one of the leading causes of death. It is caused mainly by burning of fossil fuels for electricity production and transport [19] .

The transport sector has grown in conjunction with the population over recent decades. The consumption of petroleum for transport increased on an average 6.7% a year between 1990 and 2002. Although China was a primary producer of petroleum, they began importing in 1996 as consumption outweighed produce. By 2007 China’s net oil imports including crude and refined petroleum products had increased rapidly at an astonishing rate of 22 percent annually, reaching 197 million tonnes in 2007 [20] .

About 90% of the fuel used to generate electricity from consists of coal, making thermal power stations a major source of concentrated pollution. This pollution consists of primary particles and S0â‚‚ emissions, of which China is classified as 99 in the world based on its C0â‚‚ emissions per capita [21] .

Larger power plants are more efficient in terms of coal use than smaller plants because they have higher combustion efficiency, so less coal is needed to create the same amount of power. Also, the taller smoke stacks of the larger power plants disperse pollution over a much larger area making them appear less damaging per ton than the smaller plants, whose pollution is spread over a more concentrated area [22] .

Government strategies have been to close down the smaller plants, limit mining of high -sulphur coal and encourage encourage high stacks on power plants. These strategies were not enough to keep emissions below the emission standards. In 2004 the government implemented a decree to raise fees for sulphur emissions. All new plants will install desulphurisation and older plants will install over time [23] . Most recently, the government plan to reduce sulphur emissions is to install (FGD) flue gas desulphurisation so that by2010, emissions will be reduced by 6 000 million tons [24] .

With the exception of cement manufacturing which is spread throughout urban and rural areas, heavy industry such as chemical manufacturing plants and large iron and steel mills were a major part of China’s economy in the past. By means of government policy of the time, these plants and mills were built close to cities to create employment and increase economy [25] .

Human exposure to these and other air pollutants can cause health issues such as respiratory illnesses, chronic bronchitis, skin and eye irritation, chronic and obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary heart disease, asthma and lung cancer [26] 

Water quality has also been affected by industry. Population growth led to expansion of cities and industry. This resulted in a large increase of freshwater aqua cultural fishing, more dumped industrial waste, agricultural runoff, and sewerage which has caused rapid decline of China’s water supply and similar to Japan, the worsening eutrophication of lakes [27] . Between 2000 and 2005, an increase from 30% to 45% in wastewater treatment should have seen a slowing down of eutrophication. However, due to the mentioned expansion, the amount of wastewater entering the lakes continues to increase accordingly.

The four trophic states of a lake are ogliotrophic being most pure, mesotrophic, eutrophic and hypereutrophic being virtually dead. To reach the hypereutrophic state could take thousands of

years – if at all. However the waste continually enters the lakes at such a rate that it has caused some like Dianche Lake, to change from eutrophic to hypereutrophic in less than 20 years [28] .

Measures implemented by the government to reduce water pollution include building more wastewater plants and sewer collection systems, promoting clean production in factories, control of types and quantities of pesticides used, and more environmentally friendly methods of irrigation. Research on economical technologies into prevention of damage from fertilisers is also being conducted by the government in conjunction with local communities [29] .

South-east Asia

The most important pressures on Japan’s environment today originate from transport, agriculture,

industry and, particularly, the growth of energy demand and private final consumption. Priority

environmental issues include urban air pollution (NOx, suspended particulate matter, toxics), waste

management, water eutrophication, nature conservation, climate change, chemical management and

international co-operation for environmental conservation. The Ministry of the Environment was

established in 2001, 30 years after the Japan Environment Agency (which it replaced), with extended or

strengthened environmental responsibilities such as waste management, international environmental

co-operation. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/0/16/2110703.pdf Environmental performance review of Japan:summary and conclusions


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