Research Paper Number: X17
Research Paper Mnemonic: XSEAPL17.htm
Research Paper Name: Sea Water Pollution Cases
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Water pollution is a serious problem for the entire world. It threatens the health and well being of humans, plants, and animals. As the world became more industrial and smaller due to communications and trade, accidental and purposive hazardous dumping have contributed to the problem of sea pollution. All water pollution is dangerous to the health of living organisms, but sea and river pollution can be especially detrimental to the health of humans and animals. Rivers and seas are used as primary sources of potable water by populations all over the world. Another serious consequence of this pollution is the effect of this pollution on trade in the polluted areas. This paper examines cases which reflect different causes of sea and river pollution, the seriousness of this pollution, the effect of this pollution on trade, and a possible global solution to this problem.
Pure, unpolluted water is an essential resource to the environmental balance of the world. Water has life-giving properties which are crucial to the world's global ecosystem. Water has also been used as a source and a means of trade for hundreds of years. In some areas water transport is the only viable means available. In some areas of the world, rivers and seas have become so polluted that ecosystems and the health of plants, animals, and humans are threatened. Water pollution also inhibits trade by killing off fish (an economic resource in some regions) and damaging the trade waters. In recent years, many nations have realized the problem of sea and other water pollution. Some of these nations are taking steps to control or clean up the polluted waters.
Specifically, sea water pollution can cause many different problems. The origination and spread of serious disease to humans and animals can result from sea or river pollution. In some areas, the population only has one source of water. If this water is polluted, the population has no choice but to use that water. Sea water pollution also detroys the habitats of many species of fish and other animals. In some nations, fishing or harvesting of other animals is the main source of income. If sea water pollution continues at the current rate, fishing industries in many nations will be severely damaged.
Sea water pollution can also create industries. People have a great need for clean, pure water. In the industrialized nations, bottled mineral waters are in high demand. This is because of the threat that drinking water in these nations is polluted. In nations all over the world, companies bottle "pure" water and sell it for a significant profit.
Water pollution can seriously damage fishing industries, the ability of nations to transport goods, and the health of living organisms. Where does this pollution come from?
Water pollution can result from several sources, including "waste water that runs through city sewers, waste water produced by industrial processes, water runoff from farmers, urban areas, mining, forestry, and construction, and the dredging and filling of waterways which churns up bottom sediment and other pollutants." (1) This pollution causes concern for the health and well being of all living organisms. The United States has taken steps to reduce the pollution in the nation's waters. In 1972, the government enacted the Clean Water Act. The goal of this was to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." (2) Many regulations and programs have been enacted by the EPA in order to enforce this act. The objective of these regulations and programs is to reduce pollutants entering all surface waters naturally open to the atmosphere. (3)
Even with the enactment of the Clean Water Act, much work is left to be done. One example of serious pollution in the United States occurs on the coastlines of the United States. Even after the enactment of the Clean Water Act of 1972, untreated sewage waste continues to flow into the bodies of water surrounding the US including oceans, lakes, rivers, and seas. (4) This sewage causes serious health risks to animals and humans which interact with this water. One problem is that sewage produces bacteria such as Hepatitis A, E. coli, and giardia. (5) The effects on animals or humans entering this water or eating seafood caught from this water include gastroenteritis, cholera, chronic diarrhea, and possible death. (6)
Other than sewage, chemical pollution threatens bodies of water in the United States. Waste water from farms, roads, and other sources dump excess nitrogen and phosphorous compounds into the bodies of water. (7) These chemicals do serious damage to marine life. The chemical compounds cause "blooms" at first, which are rapid algae and plant growth. These flora die and decay, removing the oxygen in the water which marine life needs to exist. (8) Whole species of marine life can be wiped out in certain areas due to this chemical waste water.
Another category of water pollution is untreated trash. Trash is dumped into bodies of water by individuals, households, and companies. Items thrown in the water can kill or maim fish and other marine life. (9) Discarded fishing line, lures, floats, and plastic six pack holders cause cuts and can kill fish, birds, and dolphins. (10)
The Clean Water Act of 1972 is the standing legislation in the U.S. This act regulates the amounts and types of water pollution which companies and waste treatment plants can dump into bodies of water. In the past, regulations which stem from this act have not been actively enforced. Because of the heightened awareness of the environment, enforcement of these regulations has increased. Environmental groups and individuals have contributed to the heightened awareness of the environment and water pollution. These groups and individuals have also taken it upon themselves, with the help of volunteers, to clean up the beaches and bodies of water in the United States.
What is currently happening on the beaches of the United States is representative of what happens all over the world. Sewage, chemical waste, and trash are being dumped into bodies of water in almost every nation. One difference between the US and most of the rest of the world is that the regulations in the US are generally more stringent than in other nations.
Water quality has improved since the enactment of the Clean Water Act of 1972. Pollution has been reduced and health and environmental threats have declined. The United States began to take these steps in 1972. Other countries have also taken steps to reduce water pollution, preserve their trading waters, and conserve marine life. This water pollution is due to years of polluting the seas around their nations and/or disastrous incidents such as oil spills.
While the U.S. continues to strengthen the enforcement of its "Clean Water" regulations, other nations are taking steps to clean up their water as well. The cases following will introduce certain causes of water pollution in different countries and the actions of these countries to clean up and stop water pollution. In some cases, the necessity of clean water is just being introduced, while in others, the water pollution incidents have strengthened already existing regulations. It is important to examine the world's reaction to water pollution because the earth's water is an essential resource shared by the global population.
The following cases relate to the issue of trade, sea water pollution and certain nations' efforts to correct this pollution. Corporations and governments have dumped hazardous waste into seas all over the world. The dispersment of hazardous waste has occured due to chronic industrial waste dumping from factories or plants, accidental spilling of hazardous materials, years of dumping of public and private waste, and industrial projects. The cases in the first section have to do with the accidental dumping of oil. These cases are the Shetland Oil Spill and the Exxon Valdez Disaster. The next category of cases have serious sea water pollution resulting solely from industrial waste dumping or industrial projects. These are the Hong Kong Waste Fee, the Sellafield Nuclear Plant, the Minamata Disaster, and the Oresund Crossing. The last category of cases have serious sea water pollution due to a combination of all types of waste production and dumping mentioned above. These are Baltic Sea Pollution, Black Sea Pollution and Tourism, Mediterranean Pollution and Tourism, and the Khain Sea Episode.
In January of 1993, an oil tanker ran aground off the Shetland Islands, Scotland in the United Kingdom. Oil from this tanker spilled into the sea water surrounding the Shetland Islands. This oil threatened seabirds, salmon, sea-trout, gray seals, otters, and other species on and around the islands. Trade around these islands had to be suspended for a time as well. Luckily, rough wave motion in the sea prevented an oil slick from developing on the water's surface and the spill broke up quickly. The British government had chemical dispersants dropped on the affected area by way of planes. The quick action by the British government and others in the area greatly reduced the potential damage to the waters surrounding the islands.
Oil spills are one of the most damaging forms of water pollution. The quick action by government officials and the luck of the rough seas has minimized the damage in the case of this spill. After this spill, the problem of water pollution in the United Kingdom has been examined more clearly. The United Kingdom has recognized the value of its water and is currently working at cleaning it up.
In March of 1989, the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker, hit a reef in the Prince William Sound, dumping 11 million gallons of crude oil into the sea. The Prince William Sound, an island body of water off of Alaska's southern coast, is home to one of the country's richest concentrations of wildlife; as well as booming fishing indusries and native villagers. The sound also serves and a thoroughfare for the Alyeska Pipeline's oil tankers shipping oil to the consumers of the lower 48 states.
The accident touched off a battle between the native Alaskans and the oil industry over both the culpability for the accident and the future of the region's oil transportation and oil spill readiness. Exxon led the clean up effort with 11,000 workers in the summer months and expended approximatedly 1.9 billion dollars. Sea otter rehabilitation centers were established while salmon and herring fisheries were isolated and closely monitored. Scientists are still attempting to determine the ecologlical damage caused by the spill.
Some debate has occured over the actions of Exxon and the spill response team concerning this spill. The captain of the ship waited twenty minutes to call the Coast Guard after hitting the reef. Over 11 million tons of oil spilled into the sound during the next ten hours at which point the clean up crews finally arrived. The oil slick has spread miles into the sound at this point, causing suffering and death to fish, otters, birds, and other animals. Exxon and the captain of the ship have been ordered to pay punitive damages to the fishermen and coastal communties in the area of the sound.
As recently as 1995, all of the factories in Hong Kong dumped their detergents, toxic chemicals, and waste water into the territory's harbor. This waste has corroded pipes and dribbled toxic metals into the harbor. This has caused serious water pollution in the Hong Kong harbor. Environmental legislation was introduced in 1988; however, enforcement of this legislation never took place. Now a private group, Enviropeace Ltd., is trying to have these factories treat their chemical waste in a processing plant.
The government has shown its commitment to cleaning up the water pollution in Hong Kong by passing this legislation. Enviropeace is a private firm which must be paid to treat this factory waste. Hong Kong must now deal with the question of who will pay for this treatment. The government has proposed a uniform tariff in the past on all domestic waste and chemical imports to pay for waste disposal. This program was defeated by a conglomeration of chemical companies. Currently the Hong Kong taxpayer must pay for the waste treatment plant.
In the past, Hong Kong had pursued economic growth at any cost, including environmental. Now that its environmental problem has gotten so bad, the government has begun a serious effort to clean it up. The government is currently concentrating its efforts on cleaning up water pollution. The water pollution has become so bad that trade into the harbor could be inhibited. The government in Hong Kong has realized the value of its water in and around the harbor and is currently trying to clean it up.
The Sellafield Nuclear Plant is located on the Northwest coast of the Irish Sea in England. It is a government owned facility which produces about one-fourth of the United Kingdom's energy. Nuclear waste from this facility has turned the Irish Sea into one of the most radioactive bodies of water in the world. This pollution has the potential to threaten the health of both the British and Irish people. Fish and shellfish are contaminated by the radiation and cannot be safely used in trade. The Irish people and fishermen are the most seriously affected by this radioactivity, however, they receive no benefits from the plant.
This problem has come to the attention of both the Irish and British authorities. Concern for the health and well being of the Irish and British people has given this problem wide spread attention. The Irish government has outlined a plan of action to control the pollution resulting from this plant. The British government must also be involved as the British own the plant and use its energy. The Irish government plans to use such measures as arbitration, legal discourse, and diplomacy.
In order to control some of the pollution resulting from this plant, British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) has opened a clean-up complex at the Sellafield plant. This complex is part of BNFL's 2 billion pound waste management program at Sellafield. The complex is designed to remove radioactivity from the waste. BNFL claims that it is committed to protecting the environment and making progress in waste management. The British government has probably urged the company to take some sort of role in cleaning up the Irish Sea in order to mitigate the poor relations between Ireland and Britain concerning this pollution. A British company, and most likely the British government, has recognized the need to protect the environment. The health and well-being of humans are at stake because of this nuclear plant, not to mention the damage to the sea and its inhabitants. This company and the Irish and British governments have realized the serious damage that water pollution can cause. They are now taking steps to control it.
From the years 1932 trhough 1968, the Chisso Corporation located in Kumamoto, Japan dumped an estimated 27 tons of mercury compounds into the Minamata Bay. (In Japanese, chisso means nitrogen.) Kumamoto is a small town which consists mostly of farmers and fishermen. After the mercury was dumped into the bay, thousands of people whose normal diet included fish from the bay developed symptoms of methyl mercury poisoning. The poisoning resulted from years of environmental destruction and neglect from the corporation.
In 1907, the villagers of Minamata had hoped to benefit from the Chisso factory. The villagers, however, recieved only meanial jobs. By 1925, the corporation was dumping waste into the bay. The corporation paid off the fishermen in exhange for polluting their fishing environment. In 1932, the Chisso Corporation moved into chemical production including drugs, plastics, and perfumes, A chemical called acetaldehyde was used in this production. Chisso had a monopoly on the mercury based compound which enabled the company to expand.
A disease was noticed in the region in the 1950s. The mercury poisoning affected humans' limbs, speech, vision, and mental capacity. Animals were affected as well. A river flows into other areas in Japan from the bay, causing the disease to be spread to these areas as well. The corporation began to make deals with the victims which absolved the corporation of any further liablity. Victims were still being compensated as of 1993.
In 1973, Japan's Kumamoto District Court found the corporation gulilty of negligence. In this case, a high court of Japan ruled against sea pollution and in favor of clean water preservation.
The Danes and Swedes are building a crossing between their two nations which will facilitate communication and trade between the nations. This crossing will consist of a bridge, a tunnel, and an island. In order to make this crossing possible, the builders must disturb the environment of the Oresund Sound situated between the nations. The governments of Sweden and Denmark, the European Community Commission, and environmental groups have been involved in the approval process for this crossing. In Denmark, an environmental group filed two claims with the European Commission concerning the damaging effects of this crossing on the environment. These claims referred to directives which stated that governments must determine the environmental consequences of projects and that wild birds must be protected. In both of these cases, the Commission did not act. It returned the decision making back to the Danish government, essentially giving Denmark clearance to go ahead with the project.
In Sweden, the project had a harder time moving ahead. The crossing had to be approved by the Water Court, a governmental agency, before Sweden would allow any construction. In its review, the Water Court demanded changes to the design in order to maintain water flow from the Kattegat into the Oresund. Waters from the Kattegat are important because they provide much needed oxygen into the Oresund which helps maintain cod stocks. The plans were changed. In order to reach 0% reduction in water flow from the Kattegat, however, the builders had to dredge the sound. This will dredge up sediment and other pollutants which will upset the delicate balance of the sound.
This crossing could also cause possible harm to wild birds which inhabit Satholmen Island in the middle of the sound. Original plans for the crossing included building on this island which would affect the birds. These plans have also been amended. Currently, the builders will create an artificial island behind Satholmen. This still may affect the birds as they currently feed in that area.
Even though there are some lingering environmental problems with this crossing, the awareness of the Danish and Swedish governments has minimized the possible damage. Environmental groups have played a major role in bringing this issue to attention of the public and the government The Oresund Sound is a very important resource to Denmark and Sweden. This crossing will significantly increase trade between the two nations. These nations have attempted to minimize the possible damage in the sound through monitoring of the plans for this crossing.
The Baltic Sea has a severe water pollution problem. Nations surrounding the sea have been dumping untreated human waste, toxic materials, and metal into the sea since the 1960s. Countries from the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc gave little regard to the possible damage done from this dumping. Specific waste being dumped into the sea includes factory waste being deposited directly into the sea or rivers which feed directly into the sea. Another type of waste is agricultural run off from all western European countries. The environmental pollution in the Baltic Sea can cause irreversible damage to the sea which is an important economical and recreational source for 80 million people around its waters.
Now that the Soviet Union has fallen, there is a collective move to clean up the sea. One group is the Baltic Sea Joint Comprehensive Environment Action Program. The countries involved in this program include the coastal nations of Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Poland, Germany, and Denmark and the catchment area nations of Norway, Belarus, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and the Slovak Republic. This program has six components which deal with minimizing waste disposal into the sea, supporting research to develop other solutions, and encouraging public awareness, among other things. Due to the serious effects and possible future consequence of the pollution, the nations around the Baltic Sea have taken serious steps in order to reduce pollution and solve the waste dumping problem. The Baltic Sea pollution has damaged the fishing industry and tourism trade which is important to the economies of these nations. By taking these steps to clean up the Baltic Sea, these nations will to only be improving their environment, but their economies as well.
In February 1992, members of the Commonwealth of Independent States met in Moscow to review the problem of environmental damage and ecology. These nations agreed to promote environmental protection through the drafting and enforcement of environmental legislation and regulations; harmonize methodologies, procedures and standards of environmental assessment and regulation and make these compatible with international practice; pursue joint environmental research and protection programs, including dismantling of chemical and nuclear weapons; create an intestate ecological information system and a common list of endangered species; form an interstate ecological council composed of the environment ministers of participating states; and finance an interstate ecological fund aimed primarily at rendering disaster assistance.
Ukraine was not at this meeting in 1992. This nation has suffered greatly at the hands of Soviet industrialization. It contained many chemical plants which damaged the environment. The land, air, and seas in the Ukraine are seriously damaged. Sulfides and chlorates make up the bulk of dangerous contaminates. The number of rivers have declined from 40,000 to 25,000 as a direct result of ecological misuse. Salt is constantly dumped into Ukraine's rivers, causing severe illness to those that must use it.
Ukraine does not wish to participate in the actions of the other CIS nations to clean up the region. This may cause legal problems for the agreement. Ukraine's unwillingness to participate points to the increasing significance of the soverignty issue in the CIS. The other CIS states are willing to clean up their environments, the Ukraine, however, has put the issue on the "back burner."
Years of negilgence and building have transformed Italy's 8,000 kilometers of coastal region into degraded peripheral areas. The areas have been built without any kind of urban or environmental planning. These factors have created a catastrophic situation for the Mediterranean Sea which is a viturally closed body of water and therefore does not get recycled very often.
Tourism, which increases at a rate of 6-10 percent annually, is a major pollutant of the Mediterraneran Sea. Tourists, and subsequently, stores, resorts, summer homes, and other structures contribute to the presence of polluting substances such as mercury and arsenic. Mercury and arsenic result form the excessive disposal of nutritious substances which originate from agricultural, industrial, and urban waste.
The principle cause of the pollution resulting from this waste is phosphorous which causes a proliferation of the vegetation and mircroscopic algae. The decomposition of this algae results in a lack of oxygen in deeper parts of the sea causing many fish to die and emanate unpleasant odors.
This sea pollution is a serious problem for Italy and will eventually affect its tourism. The European Community has implemented directives relating to water. Italy ratified one such directive in 1984. Other European agencies have approved plans or policies relating ot the clean up of the Mediterranean sea . Due to the European directive, Italy has implented a decree to regulate the pollution in the Mediterranean Sea but has not implemented any regulations to stop the pollution. Italy has made a step in the right direction, however, more can be done .
The United States has been exporting its hazardous waste since the early 1970s. This waste exporting has been increasing since then due to the increased difficulty of solid waste disposal for local jurisdictions. As the price of depositing solid waste in landfills increased, a popular option for some cities, such as Philadephia where the notorious ship, the Khain Sea, first set sail, was to burn trash in incinerators. This reduces its volume, creating a fine, black and sometimes toxic ash which must be disposed of. This used to be placed in municipal landfills, but began to pile up just as the waste had.
In 1984, the addition of regulations for land-based disposal strengthened the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The new RCRA regulations made it more costly to maintain the current landfills and open up new ones. In 1986, waste handlers in Philadelphia subcontracted with a shipping company to transport 13,000 tons of incinerator ash to the Bahamas. The transport ship, Khain Sea, was turned away and spent the next two years at sea. The ship tried to unload the cargo in the Carribean and Central America, only to be turned away. The ship then brought the ash back to Philadelphia, but was not allowed to unload. The Khain Sea then set sail for Yugoslavia where it docked and underwent repairs. In 1988, the ship appeared in Singapore without its cargo. To this day, no one knows what happened to it.
This case brought publicity to the problem of waste dumping in seas. It could be said that this case was instrumental in bringing about international attempts to control trade. An international agreement was reached in 1989 concerning transboundary movements of hazardous waste under the Basel Convention. The US signed this in 1990 but still operates under the RCRA law as it conflicts with the convention. The law will be reviewed by Congress in the near future.
The cases described above are examples of how seas and rivers have become polluted. The causes of pollution in these cases range from oil spills to chronic waste dumping. In this third section, different aspects of the cases will be examined. The categories shown below examine the type of industry affected, the effects of the pollution on trade, and the effect of the pollution on the resource in question. The following table outlines the cases from above and how these categories relate to them:
|Case Name||Industry Affected||Trade Effects||Resource Effects|
|Shetland Oil Spill||Oil/Gas and Food||Direct||Low|
|Exxon Valdez Disaster||Oil/Gas||Direct||Medium|
|Hong Kong Waste Fee||Waste||Direct||Medium|
|Sellafield Nuclear Plant||Nuclear Products||Direct||High|
|The Oresund Crossing||Transport and Food||Indirect||High|
|Baltic Sea Pollution||Food||Direct||Medium|
|Black Sea Pollution and Tourism||Tourism||Indirect||High|
|Mediterranean Pollution and Tourism||Tourism||Indirect||Medium|
|Khain Sea Episode||Waste||Direct||Low|
The table above outlines several issues relating to the issue of sea water pollution and how it affects industry, trade, and the resource in question. In some of these cases the industry affected by the pollution is also the industry which caused the pollution. Both the Shetland Oil Spill and the Exxon Valdez Disaster were caused by accidental oil spills. The pollution then inhibited trade for the oil industry in both the cases due to export bans or court judgements against the industry. The Hong Kong Waste Fee and the Khain Sea Episode dealt with the industry of waste disposal. In Hong Kong and the United States, amounts of waste had built up to amounts too large to handle. The waste disposal industries both caused and were affected by the pollution. In both these cases, new restrictions or fees were imposed on the waste industries due to the pollution or possibility of pollution. The same type of effects occur in the cases of Mediterranean Pollution and Tourism and Black Sea Pollution and Tourism. In both these cases tourism was a significant cause of the pollution and was affected by it. Tourism continues in these areas, however, the pollution will eventually cause a decrease in this industry. In the remaining cases, certain products are affected. These are plastics, nuclear products, and food. The plastics and nuclear products helped cause the pollution in the cases of the Minamata Disaster and the Sellafield Nuclear Plant. Transport is the main industry affected in the Oresund Crossing case, however, food products are specifically affected in both the cases of he Oresund Crossing and the Baltic Sea Pollution.
Through the industries described above, pollution has had significant impacts on trade. Six of these cases have direct impacts on trade as a result of this pollution. In some cases this impact is due to an import or export ban which directly affects the product or industry trade. In others, trade is directly affected through higher costs of operations, importing, or exporting. In most of the four cases where trade is indirectly affected, governments have enacted regulatory standards which control pollution. These standards indirectly affect the trade product or industry.
The third category examined in the cases outlined above is the impact of the pollution on the resource in question. In all cases this resource is water and in some cases the classification of this resource extends to fish, birds, and other animals. The effect on the resource ranges from low to high. The two low classifications are in cases where the governments caught the issue before any true damage was done. The four medium risks are results of sea pollution which has affected the sea seriously enough to pose significant risks to fish, birds, and other animals found around bodies of water. The governments became aware of these problems before the pollution got completely out of control. Four high risk classifications also exist. These pose serious problems for the ecosystems in these areas. Not only can fish and other animals be affected, but so can humans. If the governments with these high risk problems do not address the situations in the near future, serious, irreversable damage could be done.
Water is an essential resource to every living organism. The entire world today has serious problems with pollution in many of its bodies of water. Economic development and human disregard have caused a decline in the quality of water and marine life all over the world. Nations are taking individual steps in order to correct this problem, however, more must be done. Regional groups are also taking steps to address the question of water pollution. The European Community has developed many directives which attempt to protect the environment, including bodies of water. Under NAFTA, there was an environmental amendment added on to the original agreement. These regional agreements are also steps in the right direction.
One issue with water is that it can touch many different nations and regions. It should be considered a global resource. There is no global policy associated with the control of water pollution. The GATT has addressed many issues concerning trade. These include the lowering of trade and non-trade barriers and establishing trade rules for the entire trading community. It is now just beginning to address issues of the environment as well. Some kind of global forum, such as the GATT, must be used to debate the question of water pollution.
Trade and the environment are two very important issues which a nation must address. Trade significantly contributes to a nation's economic welfare. In the past, the environment has been sacrificed in order to help the economy. Today, nations are realizing that the environment must be preserved in order to protect living organisms and important resources such as water. Environmental sentiment and legislation seem to be growing from the national level to the regional level. A global environmental mandate would significantly improve the overall health of the world's environment. Under GATT or another global regulative body, a water policy must be developed. Companies and governments would have to abide by the policy or receive fines and/or sanctions. This water policy would have to be all encompassing to include specific amounts of different pollutants which would be tolerated. This water policy would also have to provide a clean-up schedule for areas which already have significant amounts of pollution. The monitoring would be done by non-partisan officials under the global regulative body. In order for this policy to be effective, a mutual commitment must be made by all parties involved. This commitment must include all governmental levels, from the global through the local levels. These levels of government must cooperate to enforce this policy and any fines or sanctions which result from it. This policy and its enforcement will only be effective with the participation of all levels of government. Once mutual commitment is made by all participating regions and governments, then the problem of global water pollution will begin to decrease.