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Cross-Border Pollution: A Growing International Problem
Pollution in one country can have serious environmental consequences in others
It’s a natural fact that wind and water don’t respect national boundaries. One country’s pollution quickly can, and often does, become another country’s environmental and economic crisis. And because the problem originates in another country, solving it becomes a matter of diplomacy and international relations, leaving the local people who are most affected with few real options.
A good example of this phenomenon is occurring in Asia, where cross-border pollution from China is causing serious environmental problems in Japan and South Korea as the Chinese continue to expand their economy at great environmental cost.
China Pollution Threatens Environment, Public Health in Nearby
Schools in southern Japan and South Korea have had to suspend classes or restrict activities because of toxic chemical smog from China’s factories or sand storms from the Gobi Desert, which are either caused or made worse by severe deforestation. And in late 2005, an explosion at a chemical plant in northeastern China spilled benzene into the Songhua River, contaminating the drinking water of Russian cities downstream from the spill.
In 2007, the environmental ministers of China, Japan and South Korea agreed to look at the problem together. The goal is for Asian nations to develop a treaty on cross-border air pollution similar to agreements among nations in Europe and North America, but progress is slow and the inevitable political finger-pointing slows it even more.
Cross-Border Pollution is a Serious Global Issue
China is Working to Reduce and Repair Environmental
China is also taking part in international talks aimed at negotiating a new treaty on greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires. Before long, China is expected to surpass the United States as the nation most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions worldwide—a cross-border pollution problem of global proportions.
Olympic Games May Lead to Better Air Quality in China
Pollution in Asia Could Affect Air Quality Worldwide
According to Toshimasa Ohohara, head of air pollution monitoring research at Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Study, emissions of nitrogen oxide—a greenhouse gas that is the primary cause of urban smog—are expected to increase 2.3 times in China and 1.4 times in East Asia by 2020 if China and other nations do nothing to curb them.
"A lack of political leadership in East Asia would mean a worldwide worsening of air quality," Ohohara said in an interview with AFP.
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