Environmental Challenges in Asia
Resident Scholar Ruth Greenspan Bell is involved in an ongoing examination of how public participation is helping to shape the environmental agenda in the countries of Asia. Bell wants to understand how public participation has helped advance efforts to improve the environment at the same time it has helped develop basic tools that people use to voice their concerns and make themselves part of government?s environmental decisionmaking.
On September 22, 2004, Bell testified before the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the U.S. Congress' International Relations Committee about the pressing need for curbing pollution in Asia and how improvements are being spurred not by legislators and policymakers, but by nongovernmental organizations and sometimes even individual citizens.
The environmental problems Asia faces are well known. Thirteen of the dirtiest 15 cities of the world ranked by the total range and average level of particulate pollution-primarily airborne soot from vehicles, cooking fires, and industry-are in Asia. More than half a million of Asia's infants die each year because of inadequate water supply and poor sanitation.
From lawsuits in India and China to public campaigns in Indonesia, Asian advocates are pressuring their governments to act on these problems and at the same time are beginning to change traditional ways of interacting with their governments.
In her testimony, Bell cites a few examples of Asian environmental advocacy, noting that many of them have been influenced by public environmental advocacy in the United States dating from the 1970s. Even more fundamentally, she notes the importance of these activities in helping to develop democracy and a robust civil society. Bell recommends that the United States find ways to provide support for these individuals and groups around the world who are just now finding their voice.
House Committee on International Relations Links