A note from Qingdao

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Jakarta, IO – A global maritime event was held in the city of Qingdao, Shandong, a couple of weeks ago. The East Asia Marine Cooperation Platform Qingdao Forum is an event that supports the United Nations’ initiative “Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development” or “Ocean Decade 2021-2030”. Started last year, the forum did not include “East Asia” in its 2022 title.

This year’s event, however, did include East Asia. East Asian waters pose challenges, and the Qingdao Forum is expected to provide solutions. At the very least, it is expected to become a space for brainstorming among related parties. 

Problems in the Asian region include territorial disputes, maritime border disputes, destructive exploitation of maritime or fishery resources such as illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing (IUU), exploitation of energy sources using military force and US-China rivalry in the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan Strait.

The East Asia seas are also threatened by rising sea levels, the relatively frequent piracy and armed robbery incidents, and the expiration of the Japan-Korea continental shelf agreement in 2028. Lastly, East Asia is prone to marine pollution, which can be considered lethal. Here, I am referring to the dumping of nuclear wastewater from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant hit by a tsunami in 2021. 

The Fukushima wastewater dumping into the sea does not only concern countries in East Asia but also Southeast Asia, including Indonesia. Wastewater that pollutes the ocean, let alone nuclear wastewater, is destructive in nature. Quoting the Head of the Environmental Science Study Program at the University of Indonesia, Tri Edhi Budhi Soesilo, exposure to radioactive waste affects human organs differently. It may attack the bones or the nerves. The symptoms also vary, and the impact only appears after several years or decades. 

Even the tiniest amount of nuclear waste is dangerous. Therefore, it must be treated with caution. The repercussions of the Bhopal and Chernobyl incidents, such as bone marrow damage and leukemia, are still felt today. Radioactive waste will also contaminate the food chain, which will have a detrimental impact when consumed by humans. Imagine if the wastewater flows into the ocean.