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Japan and China Environmental Issues, Research Paper Example

Pages: 9

Words: 2542

Research Paper

Abstract

This paper discusses the environmental issues that are being faced by China and Japan. The environmental conditions in both countries are discussed and compared for the purpose of understanding the laws and policies that the Chinese and Japanese governments are enacting and implementing to combat the Environmental Issues in Japan and China

Introduction

Undeniably, Japan and China are two of the top countries in the region of East Asia that have the most impact in the economic, cultural and political undertakings and activities not just in the region but in the whole world. However, it cannot be denied that the economic activities of both countries have significant effects in the environment. The problems associated with the environment are not something that should be taken for granted as these issues continue to affect the whole humanity and press health concerns so risky and detrimental that collaborative efforts from different countries are warranted. It is a known fact that environmental issues do not only mean pollution of air but also cover other dimensions such as climate change, change of land-use and the availability and the quality of water. All these dimensions are linked to one another and affect everyone. The effects of these issues are not contained in one small or big region but rather cross borders and reach as far as the other side of the world.

Japan and China, just like any other countries, are trying their best to provide solution to the growing environmental issues that are being faced by their people. There are policies and proposals that are being laid out in order to ensure that ways are being enacted and implemented to slow down the effects of these issues if not totally eradicate them for the benefit of the general public. In this regard, this paper will discuss the environmental condition of Japan and China as well as their environmental policies. To get a further understanding of the situation, the policies of Japan and China will be compared against each other.

Environmental Condition in Japan and China

China is undeniably the factory of the whole world. This is proven by the fact that everything is made in China. The increasing industrialization of the country has led to the increasing environmental challenges that the people are suffering from. As a matter of fact, it is believed that the country has a steady growth of 10% in its annual DGP. But it did not come for free. The 10% increase in its GDP has resulted to increasing health problems and environmental issues that the government must try and provide solutions for. The main problem in the country is its emission of carbon. China is the foremost and major source of carbon emission in the whole world. Elucidating further, China is tagged as the 3rd largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. Not to mention that it is ranked as the 16th most contaminated country in the whole world in terms of air and water quality. One of the most important indicators of the environmental problems and issues in China is the fact that the life expectancy of the people has drastically reduced by 5.5 years due to the ever increasing air pollution. Deterioration of the land is a direct result of the contamination of water and its scarcity (Xu, 2014).

Due to this situation, global awareness has risen and tarnished the economic and global standing of the country. With the ever increasing problems of the country that have direct impacts and influences in the environment, China has been the subject of media and public scrutiny. A lot of people and countries are urging China to do something for its environment and to take into consideration the global effect it has.

The truth of the matter is that whenever China utilizes its air, soil, water and various environmental resources to make products available to global consumers, environmental burdens are being borne as well. This is due to the fact that the production and the consumption of environmental resources entail the utilization of energy which can pollute the water and air resources. Such as in the cases of factories that emit pollution in the air during production hours. Not to mention emission of carbon in the environment that is the main contributor to global warming. More specifically, the urban China is more affected with the air and water pollution in the country. As a matter of fact, 7 out of the 10 most contaminated places in the whole world can be found in China. The main air pollutants are known to be sulfur dioxide and soot that are the by-products of combusting coal. These by-products are the main cause of acid rain that is affecting about 30% of the total land area of the country. The problem is rooted on the existing industrial boilers operating all across the country. Heating and the utilization of coal for culinary purposes also play important roles in the pollution.

The groundwater pollution in the country is caused by the mercury being released into the air and caught by raindrops. Run-off from various factories, mining operations and smelters in the country also contaminates the groundwater. The unfortunate thing about this situation is the fact that the groundwater is being used by a lot of farmers for their irrigation system; thus, contaminating the crops as well that are being sold to the general public. Fertilizers in the country are not safe either. Testing done by many researchers and scientists revealed that fertilizers in China are found to contain large amount of heavy metals such as cadmium.

This is particularly alarming since a lot of Chinese citizens have tested positive lead, cadmium and other heavy metals in their blood (Zamiska & Spencer, 2007). In this regard, China has finally sounded the warning for the health problems and concerns its citizens are suffering from. In addition, the improper disposal of waste from these factories and from the general public is causing water pollution. There is an apparent shortage of water supply in cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Even the supply from huge water sources such as the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers are running low due to the alteration of the economy to generating electricity. Deforestation is also affecting the quality of the water and its supply. In 2007 alone, 2 million people were affected by the shutting down of the Lake Taihu due to its accumulation of algae that caused the water to be foul-smelling. Moreover, other lakes are being infested with algae that are not good for human consumption. The worst part of the water pollution in the country is the failure of chemical factories to meet the standards set by the government for waste disposal.

On the other hand, another issue that has to be tackled and talked about is the environmental condition of China’s neighboring country- Japan. This land of the rising sun has a direct relationship with China, economically speaking.  Back in the day, Japan is the leading source of global products. But eventually, everything has been transferred to China. Hence, the environmental burdens that used to be carried by the Japanese have declined significantly as China take over the production of various goods that used to be Japan’s business. However, it can be seen that Japan is not that far off from China when it comes to environmental pollution.

Human and economic activities in Japan also contribute to the greenhouse gas emission in a global scale. In this regard, it was stated that Japan has emitted an estimated 1,225 million tons of carbon dioxide in the environment in 1999 and it has been increasing since then. This atmospheric pollution in Japan is caused by the smoke and large amount of sulfur dioxide in the air as well as nitrogen dioxide. Water pollution in Japan is caused by improper disposal of wastes, agricultural chemicals being used and discharge of sewage. Just like in China, the soil in most part of Japan contains heavy metals such as arsenic. This is particularly harmful to the health of the people in relation to the acquisition of certain health diseases and conditions such as asthma, poisoning and bronchitis. In as far as the environmental issues are concerned in both countries; Japan and China are battling almost the same environmental issues and problems that can be rooted from its advancing economy and human activities. Japan is also experiencing acid rain due to the heavy particles in the air that is brought about by the burning of coals. Groundwater pollution is also rampant in the country. The citizens in both countries are experiencing the negative effects of the pollution. People are suffering from bouts of headaches, depression, discomfort, dizziness and to some extent, impaired development (Ministry of Environment, 2015).

With all the foregoing, it cannot be denied that China and Japan will continue to poison its environmental resources such as water, air, and land if it will not strictly implement the policies and regulations that have been put in place in order to solve its environmental problems.

Environmental Policies in Japan and China

Since the early 80’s, China has a long standing effort to battle and defeat pollution. The government has made efforts to include the environmental protection in its constitution. Elucidating, the 1982 Constitution of China, article 26 specifically obliged the government to prevent and control pollution of all its environmental resources in order to provide a safe place for the Chinese people to live in and for the promotion of the ecological system. The constitution is not limited to just the prevention and controlling pollution but rather extends to the protection of the wildlife and the conservation of natural resources. In addition, the Chinese government also enacted the following laws and policies on environmental protection (Chow, 2007):

  • 1984- Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law
  • 1987- Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law
  • 1991- Water and Soil Conservation Law
  • 1995- Solid Waste Law
  • 1997- Energy Conservation Law

These laws enacted are a proof that the government is acknowledging the need for environmental protection. However, with all the advancement the country has undergone to since the inception of the laws, there is also a need for a newer and updated one. In 2002, the legislative branch of the Chinese government has enacted a revised Law on the Prevention and Control of Air Pollution. But it is imperative to note that the government did not just stop at these laws but enacted policies as well that will allow for the slowing down of the effects of the pollutions to the people and the society in general. Policies that will oblige citizens and businesses to conserve power have been put in place. This way, there will be a reduction in coal burning that contributes a lot to the emission of carbon gas in the environment.

Heavy penalties are being imposed as well to factories that are found to be emitting large amount of sulfur dioxide in the air. In addition, factories and industrial businesses are being encouraged to use machineries and equipment that are able to capture sulfur dioxide before it gets release in the air. The problem, however, lies on the cost of running the said machines. The machines are expensive to run and therefore, factories owners and management are only using them when there is inspection. Yet, the determination of the government to deter this situation proposed a monitoring system to ensure adherence to the policies. However, this is just a proposal and has not been put implemented yet. Formulation of tax incentives and other economic incentives are being put in place as well to encourage people and factories to help the government in winning the battle against pollution.

Japan relies heavily on its quest to advance industrially. Since the very beginning of its existence, Japan has focused on its three main industries such as cloth spinning, mining and manufacturing of steel. Although the country succeeded in these 3 main industries, the government failed miserably in protecting its environment. The local governments are working very hard in spearheading initiatives to provide solution to the problem. In the years of 1911 and 1905, Japan has enacted the Factories Act and Mining Law to combat the increasing problems on pollution (Pempel, 1982). However, unlike China, Japan only implemented and enforced few of the measures contained in the laws enacted. This is due to the fact that the main goal of the country is national prosperity. Therefore, very little to no attention was afforded to the health problems brought about by the pollution. Finally, after an outbreak of diseases related to the pollutions in the country has resulted to the enactment of Factory Pollution Control in 1959. Again, this law failed miserably due to taxation issues. Like China, Japan also introduces tax and other economic incentives to promote adherence to the laws.

Moreover, Japan enacted the so-called Two Water Quality Regulation Laws. But then again, it failed. Unlike China who has been successful in implementing laws and updating them, Japan’s law are weak while the damages caused by the pollution are gaining strength. Taking this into consideration Japan finally realized that what it needs done is to set out environmental standards that must be followed strictly rather than post limitations on the emissions of waste products. With this came the enactment of the Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control that covered standards and regulations for the emission of pollutants, use of land, monitoring, prevention programs and even providing for compensation on the victims of the pollution.

Conclusion

With all the foregoing, it cannot be denied that although both Japan and China have a long way to go in mitigating the problems of pollution, it can happen. These countries can succeed in this quest if the government and the people will focus more on the health of the people and the utilization of renewable energy and biodegradables. The environmental problems that Japan and China are experiencing are due to their industrial advancement. Their main focus is to succeed in this endeavor while forgetting other important things in life such as maintaining a sustainable ecology for humanity and all forms of life.  More strict and strong policies must be put in place especially in Japan where the trend of policy-making on environmental protection seems to be very weak and always failing miserably. The government should invest more on waste removal and treatments since the main causes of pollutants are the factories and industrial businesses that do not have proper waste disposal system. If the governments will make the right investments and enact the appropriate policies and laws, the battle can be won no matter how difficult it may be.

References

Chow, G. (2007). China’s economic transformation. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Co.

Ministry of the Environment. (2015, November 24). Environmental protection policy in Japan- introduction. Retrieved from <https://www.env.go.jp/en/policy/plan/intro.html>

Pempel, T. (1982). Policy and politics in Japan: Creative conservatism. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Xu, B. (2014, April 25). China’s environmental crisis. Retrieved from <http://www.cfr.org/china/chinas-environmental-crisis/p12608>

Zamiska, N. & Spencer, J. (2007, July 2). China faces a new worry: Heavy metals in the food. The Wall Street Journal.Retrieved from <http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB118333755837554826>

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