Japan cooperates with China to prevent acid rain

Japan cooperates with China to prevent acid rain

BEIJING, Oct. 16 Kyodo

Japan has launched a training program with Chinese partners aimed at controlling sulfur discharges and acid rain that some experts believe are responsible for environmental degradation in Japan.

The program’s launch was announced Tuesday in the official China Daily. It will train 750 environmental officers and technicians in pollution control and environmental monitoring.

While China has made vast improvements in controlling air pollution in recent years, monitoring is the most crippling weakness in the country’s burgeoning environmental protection regime, said H. Anwar, managing director of environmental consultancy Sinosphere.

Yen loans from Japan helped in controlling emissions in China’s northeast starting in the early 1990s, but there is still ”a long way to go,” Anwar told Kyodo News.

Benxi in Liaoning Province was previously known as ”Coal City,” and was renowned for being the most smog-choked industrial city in China. Grants and technical assistance organized by Japan’s Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (now the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation) helped to implement emission control measures and markedly improved the situation.

Programs in other cities such as Baotou and Lanzhou have not been as successful though.

Weak monitoring and the fact environmental protection bureaus are under the command of local officials means controls are not as effective as they need to be.

Training will certainly help to alleviate what Anwar describes as the typical situation where monitors are simply ”not sure how to do it properly.”

But change is also needed in the structure of government. Where environmental protection bureaus are subordinate to local officials they often are reduced to the role of ”rubber stamps” for officially favored projects, regardless of how dirty and harmful, Anwar said.

Currently, environmental concerns are only taken seriously under what he called ”enlightened leadership.” Mayors in cities such as Shanghai, Fuzhou and Xiamen have worked to enforce emission standards and protect the environment. But these programs are dependent on official favor, and no permanent mechanism exists to maintain them.

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