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Japan plans to set up an Internet-based program to monitor the environment in the Asia-Pacific region in an effort to assist in the early detection of environmental degradation, Environment Agency sources said Thursday.

Asia Watch, to be launched in fiscal 2001, will monitor air and water pollution, acid rain, deforestation and desertification in the region, with special attention paid to China, the sources said.

The program is designed to encourage other Asian states and territories to introduce effective policies to tackle environmental problems while also serving to increase the level of Japan’s international cooperation in environmental preservation, they said.

In the long run, the government hopes to develop a new model of development in which economic growth and environmental protection can coexist, the sources said.

The program is expected to cover the entire region by the next global environment summit in 2002, commemorating the 1992 Earth Summit, a U.N.-sponsored conference on the environment and development that gathered 114 heads of state or government in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

By making use of the Internet, the Environment Agency plans to work with other Asian economies to collect and share data on the environment, the sources said.

As part of the program, the agency is considering linking Japanese research institutes such as the National Institute for Environment Studies online with environment institutes in other parts of Asia.

The agency also plans to use satellite monitoring and conduct computer simulations to comprehend environmental conditions and resource availability in areas where data are lacking.

Under the plan, institutes in Japan will analyze environmental data collected in the region and draw up plans to cope with environmental degradation on an international scale, the sources said.

The agency hopes the Institute for Global Environmental Studies, based in Kanagawa Prefecture, will play a key role in compiling an international framework to combat degradation.