July 11, 2007

Asia’s Plague of Cars

In spite of Asia’s renown for producing the most advanced, gas-efficient cars on the planet, the growing popularity of car travel in China, Japan, Vietnam and their neighbors has led to serious air pollution and heath effects.

Pollution kills 750,000 people in China every year, according to previously unreleased World Bank statistics, the Telegraph reports.

At least 500,000 of those mortalities are due to outdoor air pollution, a fact the Chinese government sought to keep secret, fearing “social instability” were it known.

Cars are a major culprit, and the situation has grown so dire that Xu Zongheng, mayor of Shenzhen, recently started asking its ten million residents not to buy any more cars.

In Japan, a group of 522 asthma sufferers won a settlement in a landmark suit against the government and seven carmakers.

It took 11 years to reach the settlement, in which Tokyo officials agreed to pay 6 billion yen in medical subsidies, while carmakers will be paying 1.2 billion yen in restitutions.

Vietnam, too, struggles with a cloud of pollution caused by a surge in motorcycles and scooters ownership. Citizens there now own 1.8 million of the vehicles, and experts say the air in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is full of benzene and sulfur dioxide.

Part of the problem is that fuel importers buy low-grade diesel fuel not up to the lowest European standard, reports the International Herald Tribune.

Sources:

“Air pollution fast becoming an issue in booming Vietnam”
International Herald Tribune, July 6, 2007

“Shenzhen citizens urged to stop buying cars”
Financial Times, July 7, 2007

“Time drove asthma deal / Pollution victims had talks with court, govt to end 11-year dispute”
Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan), July 4, 2007

“Pollution kills 750,000 in China every year”
Telegraph (U.K.), July 4, 2007

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