Economic development over pollutant risk?

An article entitled “Vietnam turning a blind eye to industrial pollution” caught my eye. The article is published on World Fishing and Aqua Culture, an established magazine company, that addresses all issues regarding commercial fishing.

The article addresses various industrial pollution issue faced in Vietnam such as discharging of untreated steel processing and other manufacturing waste into the river delta of Vietnam that is home to the country’s expanding freshwater fish industry. While the untreated waste posed a potential health threat to human, the relevant agency are unwilling to take action to curb such unethical and irresponsible form of industrial waste pollutant due to the prospect of economic development brought about by these expanding industries. Quoting from one foreign national living in Vietnam, “The Vietnamese think more about ‘today’ than ‘tomorrow’,”.

 

Figure 1: Dead fish lying on the shore of in Quang Trach district, Quang Binh province, Vietnam. Photograph: Chi Nam/AP

While i understand that Vietnam is a developing country and is actively trying to boost inward investment into the country by turning a blind eye towards the industrial pollutants emitted by these foreign investors, prioritising economic development will prove to do more harm than good for the Vietnamese in the long run.

This can be exemplified by the  mass fish death along more than 200 km (125 miles) of Vietnam’s central coastline in early April, causing more than 70 tonnes of fish to die (The Guardian, 2016) (Figure 1). While the harmful effects might not felt immediately, it is critical to understand both the short and long term repercussions on both the economy and the people. In the short term, there will be a reduction in seafood population for the consumption and exportation among the local population, thereby hindering trade balance in the economy. Furthermore, in the long term, the reduction in seafood will cause large number of fishermen to be unemployed due to the inability of them to switch job as they only know how to fish and the unsightly coastline deters tourists entry hence indirectly hinders the growth of the tourism industry (ibid.). Both the short and long term effects are negative repercussions of prioritising economic development over pollutant risk in Vietnam. As such, i do not agree with the stance that economic development should be prioritised in a developing country. What’s your opinion? Do leave a comment below.

On a side note, the politicians are the one that are turning the blind eye. They are the one not immediately affected by the above0mentioned repercussions e.g. they are not afraid of losing their job and they have a stable and relatively high pay job to allow them to switch their food choices. Perhaps, human tend to be less concerned of an immediate issue if they are not immediately threatened? 🙁

References

The Guardian . (2016, July 1). The Guardian . Retrieved August 23, 2016, from Vietnam blames toxic waste water from steel plant for mass fish deaths: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/01/vietnam-blames-toxic-waste-water-fom-steel-plant-for-mass-fish-deaths

World Fishing and Aqua Culture . (2016, August 2). World Fishing and Aqua Culture. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from Vietnam turning a blind eye to industrial pollution : http://www.worldfishing.net/news101/industry-news/vietnam-turning-a-blind-eye-to-industrial-pollution-in-the-mekong-delta

 

Photo Credits 

Figure 1: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/01/vietnam-blames-toxic-waste-water-fom-steel-plant-for-mass-fish-deaths#img-1

 

Looking beyond current pollution

Reading about one article have strike me to think about the long term effects of current pollution level. Entitled “spatiotemporal heterogeneity of industrial pollution in China”, the journal article by Cheng et al. points down various issues that are intriguing.

The most significant to me is the issue of time lag and spatial spillover. The current pollution level might not have an immediate effect to the surrounding level, and pollution in one place is not restrictive. For example, industrial waste disposal into waterbodies require time to change the water quality and the polluted water will flow downstream into other water supplies, hence affecting more than one area.

I have extracted the below digram from the article. It is evident that the provincial distribution of industrial waste is increasing over time and space, at an exponential scale especially for the heavily polluted areas. While some areas do experienced a fall in the industrial pollution index, it is noticeable that the rise far outweighs the fall.

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 11.29.32 PMFigure 1: Spatial distribution of industrial pollution index in China’s 31 provinces, 2004, 2008 and 2012 (Extracted from (Cheng et al., 2016) 

The issue of spatial spillover, to me, will be of a major concern in the future, where “invasion of industrial waste” will strain political ties of neighbouring countries. One close example is the recent haze in Singapore where Singaporeans are angered towards the comment made by Indonesia’s vice president on the availability of eleven month of fresh air despite a month of polluted air. Forest fire in Indonesia has resulted in the “spillover” of haze in Singapore, and has sparked the National Environmental Agency to step in to manage the situation in previous years of “seasonal haze”. While haze is an atmospheric form of pollution, the spatial spillover seems to play an important role in regional peace in the future where industrial pollution are bound to be imminent unless actions are taken.

Figure 2: Gif depicting the usual pathway of the haze in neighbouring countries that affects Singapore 

This article has strike me to think that industrial pollution does not exist as its own entity, it encompasses a larger issue, such as political tensions and long-term impacts like health and economy. What are your views?

 

P.S. In view of the rising PSI level in the air, do stay safe and remain hydrated. Stay indoor if possible (even if the indoor air quality is harmful for health, in a situation of haze, i think that staying indoor should not be as harmful as the haze outside? — maybe those doing indoor air quality can enlightened me)

(Picture of me right now while i am typing this blog post HAHA. Sourced from: http://orig06.deviantart.net/46db/f/2012/352/9/d/gwen_tennyson_in_3m_n95_respirator_mask_by_maskedlion3-d5og2h4.jpg)

Journal Article

Cheng, J., Dai, S., & Ye, X. (2016). Spatiotemporal heterogeneity of industrial pollution in China. China Economic Review , 40, 179-191.

Credits:

Figure 2: https://www.hazetracker.org/img/generic/about-haze-map-smoke.gif

 

Delving into the “why” of Industrial Pollution — the “who”

After discussing about Industrial Revolution as the “root cause” of the emergence of industrial pollution, it strikes me to think about the role of human in industrial pollution.

Firstly, the development in technology during the period of Industrial Revolution was fundamentally brought about by the people, where people develop machines and production processes to lessen their work load and improve their efficiency and productivity. For example, the Watt steam engine. James Watt develop the design of the original Newcomen engine (which is less efficient and troublesome to use), which was later improved by other inventors and scientists. People are the one that develop these “bane” of environmental pollutants and kick started the Industrial Revolution.

Furthermore, people are the one that dispose the industrial waste products irresponsibly into the water bodies and land. This practice may be due to several reasons such as the high cost of proper waste disposal methods, lack of exposure to the importance of proper waste disposal as well as the convenience brought about by the irresponsible waste disposal. For example, look at Figure 1, the disposal of industrial chemicals into the river bodies. This may be a cheaper alternative for waste disposal and is convenient for the factory, but have the culprits thought about the potential harmful effects of  their behaviour? While the effects might not be immediate, the long term exposure to such polluted air and water can potentially cause chronic health problems (which i will be addressing in my subsequent posts).

This brings me to my next point on the use of outdated technology (cross reference to my previous post on Bellona’s article). Industries are not constantly updating on their technology to produce their products in hopes of saving cost and reducing expenditure. Technology is constantly developing and such development often bring about a reduction in emitted waste, if the industries are willing to change to the newest technology.

Figure 1: chemicals irresponsibly disposed into water bodies 

In addition, people are constantly leaching the resources from our natural world. To spur industrial growth, raw materials play a critical role in their development into the finished products. However, the extraction of these raw materials might cause soil pollution when they are spilled onto the earth. We are even using the earth’s resources unsustainably where it has been reported that we are using about 1.25 Earths’ worth of resources even with an increasing human population and consumption.

While this is the case, its important to recognize that there is no limit to a human’s imagination. Who would imagine communicating with a mobile phone 200 years ago. Therefore, human creativity and unlimited imagination will constantly improve to create environmentally friendly technology for the industries. In time to come when the technology becomes stagnated, the cost of using such technology will fall, hence incentivising industries to update their technology to boost productivity and reduce emissions.

Let’s be considerate and think about the effects on people, the environment and the Earth that we are living on.

References 

Dickinson, H. W.  (1939). A Short History of the Steam Engine. Cambridge University Press. p. 87.

Hill, M. K. (2010). Understanding Pollution. In Understanding Environmental Pollution. Cambridge University Press. p. 8

Maczulak, A. E.  (2010). Pollution: Treating Environmental Toxins. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 120.

Credits

Figure 1: http://www.newsky24.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/industrial-and-household-waste-water.jpg

Polluted earth: http://tiki.oneworld.net/sustain/choking_earth.gif

OMG! The harmful impacts of Industrialisation

Was doing the readings for tutorial 1 and was incredibly shocked to read about the harmful effects brought about by industrialisation.

According to the paper by Naja and Volesky, “analyses of the Greenland ice cap revealed that while mercury levels worldwide had been constant since 800 B.C., since 1950 the amounts present seem to have doubled” (2009). This is indeed shocking to me as so much changes have occurred in the last 50 years as compared to the 2000 years of stagnation. As such, i went to research about the mercury.

The first thing i did was to look at the images of amount of mercury. Figure 1 was the one that got me intrigued. While anthropogenic factors undoubtedly play a critical role in the increase of mercury amount, natural forces also play a significant role in the spike of mercury level such as volcanic eruptions in Mt St Helens 1980.

The green colour in the graph indicates the extrapolation of mercury level since pre-industrial times. We can clearly see the significant increase over time since industrialisation. The good news is that at least the mercury level is decreasing in the past 10 years and i sincerely hope that the trend continues.

Figure 1: Amount of atmospheric mercury deposited at Wyoming’s Upper Fremont Glacier over the last 270 years

References 

Naja, G., & Volesky, B. (2009). Toxicity and Sources of Pb, Cd, Hg, Cr, As, and Radionuclides in the Environment. In Heavy metals in the environment . Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Credits

Figure 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mercury_fremont_ice_core.png

The “Why” of Industrial Pollution

In my previous post, I have mentioned about Industrial Revolution, as a key driver to industrial pollution. Look at this video for more information on Industrial Revolution:

In general, Industrial Revolution refers to the transition period into a period of new manufacturing processes where there is an increase in dependency on machinery and new production processes through the advent of steam power and improved efficiency of water power. All this improvements helped to reduce the dependency on human labour, hence directly (or indirectly) rose the standard of living among the population, and resulted in rapid population increase.

Figure 1: Population increase in England and Wales from 1700 – 2000

Look at the rapid population increase in England and Wales!! While the increase is rapid, this period of Industrial Revolution is recognized as the first period in history where the population and per capita income rose hand in hand.

I have discussed the various “good” of Industrial Revolution, but is this period all that fanciful? It would be a too Utopian and idealistic if that’s the case. Let’s explore it further.

In rapid population increase led to the accompanying increase in demand for the new technological developments (such as transport, machinery and textile), which is driven by the availability of factories and coal consumption in the vicinity. However, this has led to large amount of chemical emissions into the air, land and water. For instance, the concentration of carbon dioxide and methane has increased 33% and 100% since the industrial revolution (Figure 2). This has led to unprecedented air pollution in the environment and has even led to the development of modern environmental laws such as the Britain’s Alkali Acts in 1863 to regulate the gaseous hydrochloric acid in the atmosphere (governmental laws as a plausible solution to counter industrial pollution, which i will be addressing in my subsequent posts).

Figure 2: concentration of carbon dioxide and methane

Reference:

David, S. L.  (1969). The Unbound Prometheus. Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. p. 40.

Fleming, J. R.; Bethany, R. K. . “History of the Clean Air Act“. American Meteorological Society.

Hudson, P. (1992). The Industrial Revolution. New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, Inc. p. 3.

Photo credits:

Figure 1: http://image.slidesharecdn.com/dtm-150821015010-lva1-app6892/95/dtm-1-638.jpg?cb=1440121894

Figure 2: http://www.jri.org.uk/resource/images/fig4.jpg

On Bellona’s latest Post

I chanced upon this article written by Anna Kireeva on 11 August 2016, just three days ago. The content was intriguing and i would like to share my comments on this perceptive article. The article can be found on http://bellona.org/news/industrial-pollution/the-kola-mining-and-metallurgy-combine/2016-08-norwegian-politicians-and-citizens-call-norilsk-nickel-dirtiest-industry-in-the-arctic .

Just a brief introduction on Bellona. It’s an independent non-profit organisation targeted at fighting climatic changes, including industrial pollution.

The article entitled “Norwegian politicians and citizens call Norilsk Nickel ‘dirtiest industry in the Arctic’ ” has shone light on the trans-boundary nature and persistent nature of industrial pollution. The residents along the Norwegian-Russian border has suffered the harmful effects of sulfur dioxide emission from the Russian Kola Penninsula’s Kola Mining and Metallurgy Company’s industrial complex towns, but two-decades down the road, the issue has not been solved politically.

ingressimage_nikel.png

Figure 1:  A view from inside the town of Nikel (Photo: Courtesy of Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

One of the causes of persistent industrial pollution in this area can be seen from the lack of political resolve. It is mentioned that “not a single high-level meeting between Russian and Norwegian officials fails to mention the pollution problem – without producing any results”, confirmed by a Norwegian parliamentarian. This shows that the politicians are indeed aware of the pollution issue, but have spent prolonged period of time on talking and not achieving anything. However, due to this being a regional issue, the personnel involved are multi-faceted and each have their own interests at heart, hence rendering the pollution issue in this area to be unresolved after twenty-six years. As such, due to the lack of policies in place to control the pollution, the pollution caused by the industries have been exacerbated over years, and would take a even stronger resolve to actually curb the pollution between the Norwegian-Russia border. Therefore, in my opinion, it takes two hands to clap to reduce and improve the environmental issues in the region.

Another highlight of the article is that €100 million to €125 million is needed to build a new environmentally-friendlier plant in accordance to the ecological demand, which is the same cost of the private yacht of the Vladimir Potanin, major shareholder of Norilsk Nickel. This once again highlight the self-motivations of the industrial owners, they value their self-interest above the health of the public and employees, whom are living and working near the industrial plants.  This is in tune with the business mindset of the operators where they want to avoid high cost and expenditure, depending on their cost-benefit analysis. Therefore, it’s increasingly important to educate and create awareness on the harmful effects of the pollutants emitted. For example, the sulfur dioxide emissions in the area exceed six to eight times the allowable limits, which prove to be extremely harmful to the health of the people nearby.

I will be discussing on the “why” of industrial pollution — the causes — in my next post, so stay tune.

Reference:

Bellona. (n.d.). About Bellona. Retrieved from http://bellona.org/about-bellona

Kireeva, A. (2016, August 11). Norwegian politicians and citizens call Norilsk Nickel ‘dirtiest industry in the Artic’. Retrieved from http://bellona.org/news/industrial-pollution/the-kola-mining-and-metallurgy-combine/2016-08-norwegian-politicians-and-citizens-call-norilsk-nickel-dirtiest-industry-in-the-arctic

A brief introduction to industrial pollution (The “What”)

Industrial pollution is generally referred to the undesirable outcome when factories (or other industrial plants) emits harmful by-products and waste into the environment such as emissions to air or water bodies (water pollution), deposition on landfills etc (land pollution) or emission of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere (air pollution). The video below will provide an insight to the various forms of industrial pollution.

This form of pollution has been exacerbated and aggravated by industrial revolution (which i will be discussing in my subsequent post on the causes of industrial pollution). Thus, by reading (and sharing) this blog post of mine, you (and I) have been indirectly contributing to industrial pollution, where the harmful effects may not be experienced in the country of consumption (hence industrial pollution is trans-boundary in nature). We have to look into the various stages (and countries)  of production of electricity, computers, transportation of computers etc.

Follow me through this journey where I will be shining light on the vastness of industrial pollution.

References:

Commission for Environmental Cooperation. (n.d. ). The North American Mosaic: An Overview of Key Environmental Issues. Retrieved from Industrial Pollution and Waste: http://www3.cec.org/islandora/en/item/987-north-american-mosaic-overview-key-environmental-issues-en.pdf

Shen, T. T. (1995). Industrial pollution prevention . Springer Berlin Heidelberg.