February 16, 2021

Asia hit by natural disasters before Lunar New Year

By Bonnie Au, Chermaine Lee and Jiaxing Li

While the world is celebrating Lunar New Year things were not so fortunate in Japan, India, and other parts of Asia. Earthquake, melting of glaciers, loss of habitat for wild animals… are these all related to human activities? How are Asian countries coping with these natural disasters?

Powerful earthquake hit eastern Japan

A day before Valentines’ Day, an earthquake struck eastern Japan. The epicentre of the 7.3 magnitude quake was just off the coast of Fukushima, near where one of the most severe earthquakes and tsunamis hit the country 10 year ago. The 2011 earthquake triggered a tsunami that led to the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power, which came down as one of the largest nuclear disasters in history.

Saturday’s earthquake was believed to be an aftershock of it. While no deaths have been reported so far, dozens of people have been injured. Japan’s meteorological agency also warned of aftershocks as strong as magnitude 6 in the coming days.The heavy tremors have also left nearly a million households without power across the Fukushima region. Roads and train services had to be suspended or closed.

Deadly glacier broke off in India

India saw a devastating incident about a week before the Lunar New Year. A part of the Himalayan glacier broke off, and the induced avalanche triggered a flash flood in the northern state of Uttarakhand. At least 41 people have been killed. The country has been scrambling to look for at least 160 people who are still missing.

Scientists suggested that this may be a result of human-induced climate change. They studied satellite and aerial images of the devastated area, and concluded that temperature changes rapidly froze and melted a huge chunk of ice hanging in the glacier, which eventually broke off.

In fact, back in 2019, villagers from the area had already raised concerns about the dam projects in the region. They feared that the construction would destabilise the mountain and even brought the issue to court. On paper — they had their success: in that same year, the Uttarakhand High Court ordered the Rishiganga power project to refrain from blasting activities. However, the villagers said the blasting continued, and the debris was never cleared. They believed this eventually led to the disaster.

Hong Kong people’s New Year wish — a brandnew carbon neutrality blueprint

In Hong Kong, Financial Secretary Paul Chan recently announced that by mid-2021, the government will launch a long-term plan that aims to achieve carbon neutrality in the city by 2050.

The move comes after Beijing’s own announcement in late September that it seeks to become a carbon neutral nation by 2060. As part of the city’snew long-term plan, about 40 electric public light buses will be put into use and about 36,000 parking spaces will upgrade their charging facilities for electric vehicles. The plan aims to also change people’s lifestyle, as well as to create new opportunities and jobs.

Another ambitious goal is to achieve zero landfill within the next two decades. Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing vowed that Hong Kong will stop sending rubbish to landfills by 2035 as part of their updated Waste Blueprint.

In this episode, we also covered the declining deforestation rate in Southeast Asia and the worsening living environment for Hong Kong indigenous cattles. Check out our latest podcast series to find out more. And don’t forget to follow our social media so we can keep you up-to-date on green news.

Sustainable Asia’s podcast series “GreenBites” is hosted by Chermaine Lee and Bonnie Au. Associate Producer: Jiaxing Li and Executive Producer: Marcy Trent Long

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