Asia: Air Pollution and Deforestation

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The continuing loss of forests in Asia is a result of many elements. A combination of governmental mismanagement and corruption, economic development, and an ever-widening gap between classes continues to cause deforestation across the continent. As the significance of forests both for their natural resources and their innate beauty declines, and as environmental protection remains undervalued to be replaced by immediate economic gains, deforestation continues to be a devious predator onslaught by the humans who need it most. Along with these problems of deforestation comes a serious problem of Air pollution. Because of the rapid economic growth and the demand for more urbanization in Central Asia, it is causing a huge environmental problem in the continent. According to Michael Richardson (1997), "No other area has as many heavily polluted cities. The World Health Organization found that of the 15 cities with the worst air pollution, 13 were in Asia. Widespread coal burning in China and India is a major source of sulfur and nitrogen contamination." The Asia-Pacific region consists of a socially and economically heterogeneous group of five sub-regions. The region hosts 66 per cent of the Earth's population and accounts for 28 per cent of world economic activity. It accounts for 26 per cent of global commercial energy consumption and depends significantly on non-commercial energy sources (World Bank 1997). Economic growth and rising energy consumption are causing increasing air pollution, particularly in many urban areas of the region. According to the World Health Organisation, 12 of the 15 cities with the highest levels of particulate matter and 6 of the 15 with the highest levels of sulphur dioxide are in Asia. In many countries in the region, the ambient concentration levels of suspended particulate matter and sulphur dioxide exceed WHO standards, and premature mortality and respiratory disease caused by poor air quality have been documented in 16 large metropolitan centres in the region. Exposure to harmful airborne particles is high or very high in some countries such as China and Mongolia. Air quality is improving in South Korea and some parts of the region but is still significantly below the WHO standard. Among different environmental pollution problems, air pollution is reported to cause the greatest damage to health and loss of welfare from environmental causes in Asian countries (Hughes 1997). The air pollution problem is expected to become worse over the coming years if no action is undertaken to improve the situation. It is estimated that the region emitted approximately 38 million tons of sulphur dioxide in 1990. China, India, South Korea, Japan and Thailand accounted for over 91 per cent of the regions sulphur dioxide emission, with coal use being the dominant cause of the region's total sulphur dioxide emission. Among the economic sectors, industry contributed the largest share to the total emission, followed by the power (Shrestha 1996). It is projected that the total sulphur dioxide emission in the region will reach 110 million tons by 2020 (Downing 1997). Across a large part of Asia, the problem of acid deposition is becoming increasingly evident. Rainfall in some countries, including China, Japan and Thailand, has been measured to be ten times more acidic than unpolluted rain (Downing 1997). Large sections of southern and eastern China, northern and eastern India, the Korean peninsula, and northern and central Thailand are projected to receive high levels of acid deposition by the year 2020 (Downing 1997). It is estimated that emission levels of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in 2030 in the business-as-usual case will be about three times 1990 emission levels. Air pollution problems similar to those experienced in Japan in the 1970s have emerged in many developing Asian countries; atmospheric concentrations in some industrialised areas have already exceeded the critical level experienced in...
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