Outline of Panel Discussion

In his opening statement, the coordinator of the panel discussion, Professor Akihiro Amano of the School of Policy Studies at Kwansei Gakuin University and Director of the Institute for Global Environmental Studies (IGES), raised three urgent issues that have come to be carefully monitored in recent years in the Asia Pacific region, where both economic development and environmental activities are occurring simultaneously.
The three issues raised were: management of the urban environment; secureness of freshwater resources; and conservation of the natural environment, including forests.

Professor Amano then opened the floor to discussion among the four panelists. Speaking first, Professor Emeritus Shigeru Itoh of the University of Tokyo and Executive Director of the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC) pointed out that in countries and regions prone to natural disasters, it was most important to provide assistance in the form of knowledge rather than in financial support.
As a concrete example that a framework had been created in which local people were able to share environmental information, Professor Itoh explained that in Cambodia, maps were created that demonstrated areas affected by flooding disasters and areas where useable water resources remained. In addition, he noted that in Nepal, too, such hazard maps were effective in mapping out areas that had been hit by landslides.

Next, Mr. Kazuaki Tsuda, Co Chairman of the Kansai Association of Corporate Executives (Kansai Keizai Doyukai) stated that because environmental improvement technologies were linked to increased costs, they therefore, had not spread. He proposed that as a policy to be implemented for environmental safety in the Asia-Pacific, Japan should focus ODA on cooperation for environmental improvement. In addition, Professor Tsuda noted that it was important for countries like Japan to begin environmental education from the elementary school level so that people could gain a true feeling that environmental degradation had greatly influenced human survival.

Dr. Maryati bte Mohamed, Director of the Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, pointed out that forest fires and deforestation had depleted the tropical rainforests and biodiversity had been lost. She further said that this was not just a localized problem but also a global one relating to the planet as a whole. As a measure to deal with this, Dr. Maryati noted that it would be necessary to promote sustainable logging with reforestation. In addition, she recommended more nature tourism in Malaysia be promoted as a measure to enjoy the environment, the implementation of environmental impact assessments and environmental education to heighten awareness among ordinary people.

Professor Emeritus Ryokichi Hirono of Seikei University said that due to the priority developing countries had given poverty alleviation and the improvement of living standards, their awareness of environmental issues was very low. Moreover, when these countries did become concerned, in many cases, there concern was limited to issues immediately surrounding them, such as damage and destruction of rainforests. Professor Emeritus Hirono added that in the future it would, therefore, be necessary to soundly promote environmental education for children in developing countries. In addition, he proposed that through such activities as reforestation by local governments, companies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), based on the current situation in which environmental issues have been actively tackled, there is a strong demand to reduce costs in the global economy and as a result, promote environmental cooperation networks and technological research that would mutually benefit both the economy and environment.

The coordinator, Professor Amano, concluded discussions by noting that environmental democracy was a concept to be promoted. By this he was referring to:,

  • (i) ensuring accessibility and usability of environmental information by ordinary people;
  • (ii) creating opportunities for direct participation by ordinary people to build consensus on the environment; and
  • (iii) by making its easy for stakeholders in the environment to receive legal protection.
Finally, Professor Amano noted that doing these things would be linked to the development of society as a whole, including the environment and the economy.

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