I am very pleased that "Acid Rain 2000", the 6th International Cnference on Acidic Deposition, is being held here in Tsukuba City, welcoming many experts from different countries in the world.
The first conference on acid rain was held in the United States in 1975, and four subsequent conferences were all held in Europe or North America. It seems quite significant, therefore, that this 6th conference is held in far-away Japan, to discuss issues related to acid rain which also arise under conditions different from Europe or North America, with the participation of many experts from Japan and its neighboring countries.
It is known that the term "acid rain" was first used by the pharmacist Ducros in 1845 and by the British scientist Smith in 1872. In Great Britain, where a large quantities of coal was consumed due to an early industrial development, damage caused by acid rain was already serious in the latter half of the 18th century. In those days, it is said, large areas of forests surrounding factories were dying because of this.
If we turn to the situation in Japan, Japan became industrialized relatively later, and its natural conditions worked to mitigate the damage to be caused by acid rain. Even though some environmental scientists were paying attention to this problem much earlier, it was only recently that the general pubulic came to notice it as a serious issue. I, under such circumstances, first became aware of the problem of acid rain not through cases in Japan but through cases in other countries, such as the damage inflicted on forests in Germany or fish in certain lakes in Norway.
In recent years, however, forests have started to die in various parts of Japan. Although definitive causes for this phenomenon have not been discovered, there is a strong suspicion that acidic pollution is a contributing factor. Because of its steep and mountainous topography, it is important for Japan to maintain viable forests to protect itself from natural disasters. Damaged forests could mean possible major disasters for our people.
Today, acid rain should be considered as a global problem. It knows no national boundaries, and it is very important that experts from various countries in the world cooperate with each other closely in coping with this issue.
In closing, I hope that the present conference will, through fruitfull deliberations, make great contribution for the protection of the global environment and the future of the humanity. I also hope that it will provide a good opportunity for people to deepen their understanding of the importance and urgency of coping with the acid rain problem.