Most people have a general idea of the consequences of air pollution. Decision m akers and government officials undoubtedly view the problem from a different per spective; realizing that air pollution affects both the quality of human life as well as the economic viability of many cities in the world. It was recently est imated that the average commuter in Bangkok spends nearly 40 working days each y ear in a vehicle commuting; all this in an environment where several hundred new vehicles are on the road each day. In a like manner, pollution levels from fact ories employing out-of-date technologies are causing increasingly serious and me asurable health problems in many developing countries and countries with economi es in transition. Vegetables grown miles from pollution sources are heavily cont aminated by air-borne pollutants. Few would disagree that increasing investment in research and development is required if cities are to become liveable and rem ain sustainable. However, even the most optimistic of bankers and planners admit that the billions of dollars required to completely eliminate the problem will not be forthcoming, even in the next fifty years.
Yet many solutions exist, some high-tech and some employing rather simple techno logies to address stationary or mobile pollution sources which can be implemente d today in developing and transition-economy countries. Simply stated, cities ca nnot wait for the "next generation" of technologies to begin attacking this prob lem. As is obvious, "the future is here" and the picture being painted is not so pretty.
Japan has been a leader in the development and application of such technology; w itness the transformation in air quality in such cities as Osaka, Yokkaichi and even Tokyo in the last twenty-five years. These success stories notwithstanding, the mere existence of technology does not guarantee its adoption or efficient m anagement.
This effort by the Global Environment Centre Foundation recognizes that technica l information must not only be disseminated, but must also be understood, adapte d to local conditions and implemented in a cross-sectoral and region-wide contex t if it is to effective in the long-term in improving the human condition in our urban areas.
The UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre applauds this effort by G EC to provide high quality information on Japanese technologies available to pla nners and decision makers throughout the world, as we would do for any nation's efforts to disseminate information on new technologies. It is only through the c ombined efforts of all countries that problems of this scope and scale can be ad equately addressed.
Richard A. Meganck, Ph.D.
Director of UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre