• Kyodo

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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 a crippling weakness, said H. Anwar, managing director of environmental consultancy Sinosphere. Yen loans from Japan helped to control emissions in China’s northeast, starting in the early 1990s, but there is still “a long way to go,” Anwar said.

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 arranged 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, however, been as successful.

Due to weak monitoring and local control of environmental protection bureaus, regulations in these cities are not as effective as they need to be.

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

But change is also needed in the structure of the government.

When environmental protection bureaus are subordinate to local officials, they are often reduced to the role of “rubber stamping” officially favored projects, regardless of how dirty or harmful they may be, 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 to protect the environment, but these programs are dependent on official favor, and no permanent mechanism exists to maintain them.

Acid rain monitoring

A second intergovernmental meeting aimed at establishing a network to monitor acid rain in East Asia will be held Oct. 25 and 26 in Niigata Prefecture, according to the Environment Agency.

The meeting will be attended by representatives from 10 countries as well as various international organizations.

Participants are expected to give the go-ahead for a Niigata-based acid rain research center to act as the backbone of the Acid Deposition Monitoring Network in East Asia.

They will also decide on whether to place the network’s permanent headquarters under the wing of the U.N. Environment Program or U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

Ahead of the meeting, a two-day working group meeting will be held Oct. 23 and 24, also in Niigata, Environment Agency officials said.

The network, which held its first intergovernmental meeting in March 1998 in Yokohama, is charged with monitoring in a more integrated way the conditions and impact of acid deposits in East Asia.

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