The attitudes and approaches of people to nature and the resources that it offers are crucial for life on Earth. The modern world is full of examples of how improper solutions and industrial activities lead to the real environmental crisis in some territories. The example of China and Japan are the most pronounced regarding the environmental catastrophe and the consequences that it can bring to the population on the individual and national levels. The current paper is aimed at discovering the environmental situation in two strongly polluted countries in order to analyze the fundamental differences and possibilities of the complex cooperation between the countries to tackle the problem.
Environmental Situation in PRC
Together with the rapid economic development of the country, it is necessary to refer to its problems that are to a great extent predetermined by this development as well as industrialization and inappropriate governmental solutions. Environmental catastrophe in the country is caused by a number of issues that negatively impact the quality of water, soil, air, and human health. A number of international reports have focused on the current issue to prove that it demands rapid solutions. The environmental crisis in China makes it responsible for one-third of the overall world amounts of carbon emission. For example, Beijing demands 114.30 million tons of coal for energy until 2030 (Feng et al., 2012).
With regard to the government plans to reduce SO2 emissions, it is necessary to emphasize failure to do so and increase wastes by 28% (Schreifels et al., 2012). Moreover, out of 20 the most polluted cities on Earth, 16 are Chinese (Xu, 2014). Deteriorative impacts of the pollution are reflected in the life expectancy decrease and disappointing public health statistics. It is logical that such environmental and health degradation in the country leads not only to the public discontent but also to the money loss. In 2008, environmental situation led to a 9% loss of the national GDP (Xu, 2014).
In order to understand the issue more clearly, there are good reasons to refer to numerous examples that show how serious the problem is. The Beijing smog or ‘airpocalypse’ in 2013 became a considerable obstacle for the citizens to feel safe or even move through the city (Xu, 2014). The concentration of hazardous particles in the air was 40 times higher than the safety norm (Xu, 2014). A bit later, the air pollution in Harbin reduced the visibility to 50 meters or even less (Xu, 2014). The overall statistics have shown that air quality in 74 Chinese cities failed to meet health standards (Xu, 2014). 1.2 million premature deaths were caused by air pollution in 2010 (Tang et al., 2014). Lung cancer among children, cerebrovascular, respiratory, and cardiovascular diseases complication, avian flu, chronic diseases, and any other consequences are serious air pollution-related concerns.
Water pollution and the shortage is another serious hazard in the country. According to the statistical data, 90% of underground waters are heavily polluted, and wastes are not removed. The situation with 70% of rivers is the same (Xu, 2014). One of the most well-known related tragedies was the pollution of the Songhua River with toxic chemicals after a plant explosion in 2005 (Xu, 2014). The contaminated Huangpu River was also discussed in media due to the numerous deaths of animals in 2013 (Xu, 2014). At least thirteen rivers on the neighboring territories are under Chinese control. However, two-thirds of the cities in PRC do not get sufficient water supply (Xu, 2014). In rural areas, the situation is even worse. 300 million people or even more have no access to piped water (Xu, 2014).
The situation with water has also influenced the ability to cultivate the soil. Nowadays, 27.5% of the land has turned into a desert (Xu, 2014). According to the study of Bai et al. (2011), the concentration of heavy metals in wetlands varies depending on the region. SQGs, Ferrum, chromium, and copper are defined as highly toxic pollutants presented in surface soils (Bai et al., 2011).
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The pollution has even become a political concern due to acid rains and smog in South Korea and Japan in May 2013 (Xu, 2014). The recent surveys even report that pollution in China worsens the environmental condition in the western part of the U.S.
In addition to the economic concerns predetermined by the necessity to solve health and environment-related issues, it is vital to indicate the concerns of the population that lead to organized protests and demonstrations. Ningbo, Kunming, and some other cities where chemical plants are located often gather angry people to protest against the threat (Xu, 2014). Moreover, from time to time, urban movements against environmental pollution appear.
It is obvious that the environmental problems in China have a long history and could not appear in a moment. The latest impacts on the environment were related to the economic boom that made the exploitation of natural resources even less wise than in the previous centuries. The historical reports provide information that a shortage of resources, natural disasters, and famine were common during the ruling of various dynasties on the territory of the countries (Xu, 2014). The first environmental institutions in PRC were built only in 1972. At the same time, the TVEs (township and village enterprises) grew to violate environmental standards. With the improvement of life level for millions of people, the modernization and industrialization led to 130% growth of energy consumption until 2010 (Xu, 2014). Moreover, coal production and consumption is a serious negative contribution to air quality. Sulfur dioxide emissions are the major negative consequences of its use. In addition to this, urbanization is also an important reason for bad air quality. According to the governmental plan, 70% of the Chinese population should move to the cities until 2030 (Xu, 2014). As for water pollution, the underlying reasons for it are primarily contamination and wastes. However, it is also necessary to indicate water overuse. In general, chemical plants work is mostly considered by the citizens as the most serious problem in the country.
The first environment-friendly policies in PRC took place at the end of the 20th century. These reforms were made in dire environmental conditions and brought the industrial output of the country to the level of 11.4% per year (Xu, 2014). The research conducted by L? et al. (2012) provides evidence that ecological rehabilitation under these initiatives was not effective and had only minor positive results. In order to improve the situation, the long-term regional eco-rehabilitation policies are demanded (L? et al., 2012). Five-year plans regarding the reduction of sulfur dioxide emission have also become a failure (Schreifels et al., 2012). In fact, the statistics, as well as the protests and movements that regularly appear on the territory of PRC, show that the government policies can hardly be estimated as effective. As for the reactions of the government to the anti-pollution demonstrations, one can see that they often provided concessions to the protesters (Mol&Carter, 2013). Moreover, in 2013, the nationwide blueprint for climate change was issued in order to show the environment-related long and short-term goals (Xu, 2014). Since 2014, the factories and enterprises have to provide public reports on their emissions (Xu,m 2014). In addition, the Prime Minister of PRC Li Kequiang promised serious changes on the way to solve the pollution crisis, but for now, it has shown to require $257 billion on air-cleaning (Xu, 2014). While the promises cannot be evaluated until they are implemented into life, it is necessary to indicate some actions that have been taken. Among such, investments into renewable energy, installation of the electricity-generating capacity, publishing the data for wide public, and establishment of such NGOs as Friends of Nature and Global Village are efficient steps (Mol&Carter, 2013). In addition, the amendments to environment protection laws were made.
Environmental Problems in Japan
In contrast to China, one can consider Japan as a quite environmentally friendly and more responsible country in dealing with natural resources. Even though it suffered from some environment-related problems previously, the policies implemented by the government today are quite effective. Still, the problems exist. One of the most meaningful is waste management. As a highly developed nation, Japan produces great amounts of trash, but the territory of the country does not have enough space for it (Smith, 2015). Consequently, trash has to be annihilated, which mostly happens by means of burning. However, such actions become a contribution to air pollution. Therefore, the adoption of the new recycling policy took place in 2010 (Smith, 2015). Nevertheless, the OECD insists that Japan still needs to search for more effective approaches to waste reduction (Smith, 2015).
Air pollution is a crucial threat to human health as it is one of the easiest ways to distribute hazardous parts into human organisms. According to Okada et al. (2012), the air in Japan demands cleaning. The investigation of the industrial areas has reported a high concentration of dichloroethane, styrene, and some other matters (Okada et al., 2012). The same survey has shown a high concentration of formaldehyde and other carcinogenic matters in roadside areas (Okada et al., 2012). In addition, in both areas, toluene concentration was high, especially in summer (Okada et al., 2012). Therefore, there are good reasons to create an effective emission reduction plan that would consider vehicles, solvents, and other issues.
Another crucial environmental issue is predetermined by the consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant explosion. Even though this plant has been disabled for almost two years, the radioactive elements still influence the environment (Smith, 2015). For example, in August 2013, radioactive water from the plant leaked into the Pacific Ocean (Smith, 2015). In addition, contaminated groundwater was discovered in 2013 (NRC, 2015). What is important, such leakages are dangerous not only for Japan but for other countries and the western coast of the U.S. in particular.
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Some problems with water pollution were observed previously as well. For example, in 2005-2006, the analysis of fish from Okinawa Island and Ishigaki Island showed the OC contamination patterns (Malarvannan, 2011). The concentration of contamination varied depending on the location. Considerable CHLs and DDT levels were common for Okinawa fish (Malarvannan, 2011). As for the fish from Ishigaki coastal waters, the contamination level was much lower (Malarvannan, 2011). It is crucial to understand that the seafood contamination is a very timely issue for the Japanese not only due to the fact that it can be used to describe the coastal water state but due to the fact that fish is one of the major ingredients of Japanese cuisine.
The research conducted by Kubota et al. (2012) has also provided evidence that at the beginning of the 21st century, dioxin emissions were found in wild nature. The inhabitants of Lake Biwa and the surrounding territories reported the high levels of DRC (Kubota et al., 2012). Being quite toxic, these elements are very harmful to life and demand particular aggressive actions from the government. Therefore, further researches that were conducted 7 years later reported the decreased BRC marks and proved that the national regulation of the emissions was effective (Kubota et al., 2012).
Japanese environment agency was established in 1971 (Government of Japan, 2015). At that period, environmental pollution in the country was severe in practically all spheres. Such a situation was predetermined by the rapid economic growth like it was in China. However, the local concerns together with the raised global environmental issues led Japan to the implementation of new policies. The basic environmental law was formulated in 1993. One year later, the basic environmental plan was adopted (Government of Japan, 2015). The plan as well as the law provided measures to all organizations and supported UNEP International Environment Technology System (Government of Japan, 2015). Proper coordination of environmental policies has remained an urgent task until nowadays.
As it was mentioned above, the environmental policies in Japan are more effective and better panned than those of China. In order to prove it, Smith (2015) has referred to the air pollution problem that took place at the end of the 20th century and was tackled in a way that Japanese cities are nowadays mentioned among the list of places with the cleanest urban air around the globe (Smith, 2015). Therefore, one can see that Japan has contributed greatly to the environmental progress in the area of air emissions reduction, wise water usage, and municipal waste generation (Smith, 2015). In the OECD report, the approach of the country was marked as encompassing and focused on the importance of links between ecological safety, economic development, and social welfare (Smith, 2015).
An effective step was the choice of clean technology. The International Energy Agency has emphasized that the Japanese government has focused on clean technology promotion by shutting down the nuclear reactors (Smith, 2015). Moreover, LED lights developed in Japan are effective to decrease electricity consumption by 40% (Smith, 2015). Moreover, solar panels and underground waters have been used for cooling at such big machinery manufacturers as Komatsu. As a result, the energy reservation has reached 40% over 3 years (Smith, 2015).
The consequences of the Fukushima explosion and further water contamination were not neglected as well. The government has defined three goals that should be met until April 2016 and is fulfilling it gradually (NRC, 2015). The first goal is to eliminate contamination, remove the polluted water from trenches, and clean the harbor. The second goal is to install special soil walls that would stop the leaks and divert the water away from the buildings that are already damaged. The same walls should be put on the ocean side as well. The last goal is to prevent the possibility of similar leakages in the future. In order to do so, the government has implemented a special system of filling the soil with liquid glass or another type of sodium silicate. In such a way, the ground becomes less permeable for the harmful radioactive particles (NRC, 2015). Moreover, the special weld should be installed by the storage tanks.
Proper environment treatment is a timely issue for all countries around the world. Being highly developed economically, PRC and Japan are the representatives whose participation in environmental plan adoption is obligatory. For both countries, the main reasons are the level of energy consumption, understanding of the contribution that they bring to the global natural balance, and the importance of the relations with other countries. Even though the current situation in the countries is different and the pollution of the Japanese environment is much lower, the latest history shows that the underlying reasons coincide since the contamination was mostly predetermined by the rapid economic growth. While the Japanese government has managed to implement effective policies to overcome environmental detriment, the Chinese side failed to do so. Consequently, the above-mentioned research shows that the PRC government should borrow some of the Japanese practices to fight pollution. As for the Japanese government, it is important to follow the existing plan and develop energy-saving ideas.