Japanese Environmental Pollution Experience

The history of pollution in Japan

The history of pollution in Japan goes back to the beginning of the Meiji Period. Around the 20th year of the Meiji Period, the mineral pollution case of the Ashio Copper Mine came to be known as the first pollution case that occurred in Japan. Since the end of World War II, Japan has strongly upgraded the industrial infrastructure and developed heavy-industrialization since about the 25th year of the Showa period. A large amount of pollutants had been emitted because of the massive increase in industrial manufacturing. Also because factories were built on waterfront areas to increase production efficiency, the sources of pollutant generation were concentrated. Terrible pollution-related diseases, including four major diseases such as Minamata disease and Yokkaichi asthma, were triggered.

Government mandated pollution countermeasures

Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control was enacted in the 42nd year of the Showa Period in order to promote pollution control measures comprehensively and systematically. In this law, the target coverage for pollution and responsibility of waste producers, the national and local governments were specified. In addition, a special Diet session at the end of Nov. in the 45th year of the Showa Period (the 65th Diet) conducted intensive debates regarding the pollution issue, and submitted 14 bills about the pollution-related laws and regulations, including the Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control amendments, and all of them were passed. After the debate about the unification of pollution management in the Diet, the Environmental Agency was established in the 46th year of the Showa Period After that, in the 5th year of the Heisei Period, the Basic Environmental Law was enacted which evolved from the Basic Law for Environmental Pollution Control. However it didn't declare the end of pollution, but generally addresses pollution as one of the major environmental issues

Involvement in damages and expenditures for pollution

A report comparing the damages and expenditures for pollution called Japan's Pollution Experience as started in 1991 by the Society for Global Environmental Economic Research. In this report, they compare annual damages to annual expenditures for three of Japan's major pollution cases; they are Yokkaichi City, the Minamata area and the Jinzu River watershed (used assumed damages, compared to the actual damages for the Yokkaichi case). According to estimates, 21.07 billion yen for damages and 14.795 billion yen for expenditures in the Yokkaichi City case, 12.631 billion yen for damages and 123 million yen for expenditures in the Minamata area case, and 2.518 billion yen for damages and 620 million yen for expenditures in the Jinzu River case. As one can see in the comparison, in order to prevent health damage, investing sufficiently in environmental preservation measures from an early stage of pollution production is the rational choice, financially speaking. Without proper pollution control measures and only considering short-term benefits, basic human activities such as economic growth might be harmed; in the long term, a sustainable economy cannot be achieved.

  • Environmental Management Bureau -Japan's experience in overcoming the problem of pollution-

Japan's regulations and environmental law

OECD's Environmental Performance Reviews: Japan

The principal aim of the OECD's Environmental Performance Reviews is to help Member countries improve their individual and collective performances in environmental management.

The primary goals for this programme are:

  • to help individual governments assess progress;
  • to promote a continuous policy dialogue among Member countries, through a peer review process; and
  • to stimulate greater accountability from Member countries' governments towards their public opinion, within developed countries and beyond.

Environmental performance is assessed with regard to the degree of achievement of domestic objectives and international commitments. Such objectives and commitments may be broad aims, specific qualitative goals, precise quantitative targets or a commitment to a set of measures to be taken. Assessment of environmental performance is also placed within the context of historical environmental records, the present state of the environment, the physical endowment of the country in natural resources, its economic conditions and demographic trends.

OECD's Environmental Performance Review has been released third times in 1994, 2002 and 2010. The summaries of evaluations and recommendations are listed by categories. Detail