While the arguments and movements over the territorial dispute with China goes on and on, the health concerns over the toxic air pollutant PM2.5 has also been increasing, especially in the Kyushu area. The worsening air pollution situation in China has contributed to the steep increase of PM2.5 in the area, as confirmed by the the Environment ministry.
PM2.5, or hazardous particulate matter measuring below 2.5 microns, is normally due to automobile exhausts. But the panel convened by the ministry showed that the reason for the increase in PM2.5 not just in Kyushu but in other remote islands as well. They have drawn up guidelines in case the average level of PM2.5 becomes severe. These include advisories for people to just stay inside if the situation worsens. They are also encouraging local and prefectural governments to start announcing the air-quality levels of their areas on their websites. The government is working on ways to further reduce pollution and therefore reduce the PM2.5 levels.
But all of these efforts are useless if China does not do anything to address their air pollution issues. That is why part of Japan’s efforts is to offer clean-air technologies to China and to call for joint studies between their respective environment ministries. While China has agreed in principle to work together on this, especially on the aspect of combatting acid rain, they have yet to provide Japan with PM2.5 data. The current fresh tensions over the Senkakus/Diaoyu islands has made it more tricky to broach the issue with China, according to Shinji Inoue, senior vice minister of the environment. He said they have to move carefully and avoid making it sound like Japan is the “victim” on this issue.
China is taking the issue of pollution seriously, as evidenced by its declaration at their National People’s Congress last March that they will be prioritizing this issue. Sources say they are eager to learn from Japan’s environmental protection experiences. The two countries, together with South Korea, will be holding a trilateral meeting of environment ministers in May, and Japan is hoping to secure an agreement on cooperation by then, provided that the meetings actually push through, despite the current hotbed of bilateral tensions.
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