Environmental Pollution Control Measures

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  • Topic: Pollution, Minamata disease, Environmental law
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Chapter 6 Environmental Pollution Control Measures

While modern societies face growing concern about global environmental issues, developing countries are experiencing complex, serious and fast-growing pollution problems of their own. The potent combination of industrialization, urban development and mass consumption trends is exacerbated by foreign companies operating with little regard for the impact on the local environment. Environmental pollution is more than just a health issue; it is a wider social issue in that pollution has the potential to destroy homes and communities. Pollution problems are also closely tied to the mode of development in developing countries. Despite this, many developing countries either have not developed environmental pollution control measures, or have not provided adequate implementation structures to ensure that policies are effective. During the period of rapid economic growth after the Second World War, Japan experienced a variety of terrible environmental problems on a scale unprecedented in the world. These

environmental problems can be attributed to the prevailing emphasis at the time on economic growth and profits at the expense of public health. For this reason, the government was unwilling to pursue environmental strategies. Worsening environmental problems led to the emergence of numerous victims’ groups and turned the tide of public opinion, so that governments at the prefectural and national level were forced to act. Eventually, after much trial and error, effective strategies for dealing with environmental pollution were put in place and as a result the quality of the environment began to improve. By describing Japan’s experiences with respect to the problems caused by the initial reluctance to address environmental issues, as well as the success of subsequent environmental initiatives, it is hoped that we can help to prevent worsening health problems in developing countries and promote sound and healthy social development. This chapter presents an overview of the

Table 6-1 Seven Categories of Pollution
Category Atmospheric pollution Water pollution Major causes Smoke, dust, exhaust fumes, toxic substances (such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide) Polluted waste water, waste fluids (such as petroleum), sludge, household sewage, sewage discharge, general waste, agricultural chemicals Arsenic, heavy metals (especially in agricultural chemicals) Factories, construction work, road traffic, trains and aircraft, late-night commercial operations, advertising Factories, construction work, road traffic, trains and aircraft Upswelling of groundwater, gravel quarrying, coal mining Exhaust fumes, river contamination, sanitation facilities, accumulated sewage, livestock farms, etc. Headaches, insomnia, depression, hearing loss, impaired development Dizziness, discomfort, structural damage to homes Structural damage to buildings Headaches, discomfort Major symptoms Asthma, bronchitis Examples Photochemical smog, “Yokkaichi Asthma” Minamata Disease, “Itai-Itai” Disease (cadmium poisoning), PCB poisoning Poisoning

Noxious odors, poisoning

Soil pollution


Osaka Airport noise Shinkansen (bullet train) vibration Koto Ward, Tokyo

Vibration Ground subsidence Noxious odors

Sewage in the Sumida River

Source: Based on the Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control.


Japan’s Experience in Public Health and Medical Systems

Table 6-2 The History of Environmental Pollution Control Measures The history of environmental pollution control measures (Iijima 1993) 1. Prior to 1868 (before the Edo Era): First protest actions by victims of pollution 2. 1869–1914 (Meiji Era to First World War): Emphasis on industrial development 3. 1914–1945 (First World War through to end of Second World War): Emphasis on nation-building 4. 1945–1954: Pollution becomes an issue in wider society 5. 1955–1964: Extensive pollution damage during period of rapid industrial growth...
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