中国大気汚染 成長至上主義の限界露呈した

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 19, 2013)
China's air pollution shows limits of focus on growth
中国大気汚染 成長至上主義の限界露呈した(1月18日付・読売社説)

China now has to pay the price for its distorted policy of ignoring environmental protection measures as a result of its focus on economic growth above all else.

In various Chinese cities, air pollution has become a serious problem. In Beijing, for instance, the concentration of particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less--known as PM2.5--found per cubic meter in smoke from factories and exhaust gas from automobiles briefly rose to more than 10 times the recommended environmental standard in China and nearly 40 times the safe limit in the guideline set by the World Health Organization.

PM2.5 particles can penetrate deep inside the lungs, causing asthma, bronchitis and lung cancer. Thick smog containing these particles has been generated in China, and the number of people with respiratory ailments has sharply increased. Low visibility caused by the smog has greatly affected traffic.


Environment ignored

The daily life of Japanese living in the country has been also threatened, with two schools for Japanese children in Shanghai recently suspending students' outside activities. This is a serious environmental pollution that cannot be overlooked.

The main causes of the thick smog are an increase in exhaust gas, the combustion of coal for heating and a lack of strong wind, resulting in the retention of polluted air in the atmosphere. The phenomenon occurs every year around this time, but this year the pollution is extremely bad.

Factors behind the situation include the disorderly expansion of production activities along with sharp economic growth and a drastic increase in the number of automobiles.

Manufacturers do not observe environmental regulations and regional authorities do not supervise them strictly. The quality of desulfurization devices is said to be poor and some even say many are not operating.

Under a "scientific development concept" banner, the previous administration of Hu Jintao transformed the country's gross domestic product-centered policy and declared it would aim at sustainable development while also paying consideration to the environment. However, the current reality shows the level of China's environmental pollution has already gone beyond the acceptable limit.

If environmental measures are delayed, the Chinese government will have to pay a great price for its mistaken policy. The Xi Jinping administration must fully recognize this and take measures to sufficiently deal with the air pollution.


Japan's problem, too

For Japan, the air pollution in China is not a fire on the opposite side of the river. Similarly to yellow sand, the particles will disperse into neighboring countries such as Japan and South Korea via westerly winds. So it is unavoidable for the pollutants to cause a certain degree of contamination across borders.

Although it is not yet determined that they came from China, particulate matter exceeding the Japanese safety level has been observed in Japan. Caution will be necessary hereafter.

Japan has promoted cooperation with China in energy saving and environmental protection to create a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests. We wonder to what extent this policy produced results.

More than a dozen nuclear reactors have been operating in China, and the government plans to construct more than 50 additional reactors.

If a reactor accident took place, it would have an immeasurable effect on Japan. There must be many ways Japan can cooperate with China in this field.

Japan should patiently appeal to China about the importance of environmental problems and needs to call on the country to utilize the know-how of Japan's antipollution measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 18, 2013)
(2013年1月18日02時01分  読売新聞)

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