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 user 2006-11-29 at 1:58:00 pm Views: 85
  • #16920

    known as one of the most polluted places in Japan, thanks to a movement
    initiated by a group of housewives the city of Kitakyushu is now an
    environmentally friendly zone

    the early 1900s many heavy industries, especially steel factories, were
    established in the city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka prefecture on the
    island of Kyushu. Large coastal areas were claimed to pave the way for
    industrial growth, part of the framework that supported the
    industrialisation of Japan, and later, its rapid post-war economic
    growth.However, by the 1960s the island city had begun to pay a steep
    price for an economic development which showed disregard for the
    environment _ some of the worst industrial pollution in the country.
    Smoke from the factories blackened the once blue sky and the
    surrounding seas were chronically contaminated with toxic substances
    released from untreated wastewater.”At that time,” says Mr Hashimoto
    Jyun, an official of the Environment Museum in Kitakyushu, “the city’s
    Dokai Bay was named the Sea of Death because even the bacteria and
    other germs could not live in it. The sky was called the seven-coloured
    sky because of all the different types of smoke released from the
    industries.”The pictures and exhibits at the museum, for example of a
    boy covered with black soot, school children wearing masks while
    studying in their classrooms, and the factory chimneys spewing out the
    dark smoke into the sky, tell a story of a city made nearly
    uninhabitable by industrial pollution.But the Environment Museum has
    another story to tell that is even more important. The museum
    chronicles a grassroots movement, led by a group of housewives, to
    reclaim the city. The housewives’ group staged protests and enlisted
    the help of academics to conduct a series of studies on the
    environmental damage. When the environment became a major electoral
    issue it was the beginning of the end of Kitakyushu’s nightmare.It
    wasn’t easy, but through the combined efforts of the local people, the
    city administration and the polluting companies themselves, the city’s
    blue skies and clean water have been called back from the past, and
    more than 100 species of fish and shellfish live in the surrounding
    waters.In 1990 Kitakyushu was awarded with the the United Nations
    Environmental Programme (UNEP) Global 500 Award, the first Japanese
    city to win the award, in recognition of the movement of concerned
    citizens to recover the heavily polluted city. Kitakyushu is now
    attracting Japanese and international researchers who want to learn
    more of the methods used there. The Environment Museum records for
    posterity the heartening lesson that environmental degradation can be
    reversed, a message that is very important for the younger generations
    to keep in mind.

    was not alone among Japanese cities in suffering a severe loss of
    environmental quality during the period. The country’s rapid
    industrialisation adversely affected the public health in a number of
    communities. Well known cases from the mid 1950s to mid 1960s include
    the Itai-itai cadmium poisoning in Toyama, mercury poisoning in
    Minamata and Niigata and an outbreak of asthma in Yokkaichi caused by
    air pollution .In 1967 the Japanese government issued the Basic Law for
    Environmental Pollution Control. By the year 1972, all prefectures and
    local governments had set their own regulations to control pollution in
    their localities.A Kitakyushu city official said tough regulations were
    put in place there. For example, factories were required to install
    efficient air cleaners and switch, at great cost, to low-sulfur fuel in
    the early 1970s, which drastically cut emissions of smog-causing sulfur
    dioxide. Dust levels in Kitakyushu fell following a reduction of coal
    use.To clean up the sea, beginning in 1972 the city and the industrial
    sector invested a huge amount of money to successfully dredge more than
    350,000 cubic metres of mercury-contaminated soil from the bottom of
    Dokai Bay.

    It was the housewives who made the difference.
    there had been no women’s movement, I believe our countermeasures would
    have been significantly delayed,” says Mr Jyun. Mr Noriyaki Seki, a
    representative of a local environment group, said that every year the
    city hosts an eco fair in Kitakyushu. This year the event was organised
    by the city administration with the help of 54 private firms and more
    than 100 nonprofit organisations. More than 100,000 visitors
    attended.The two-day event aims to instill an environmentally friendly
    spirit in the community and to encourage green activities and
    products.”This year, a biomass plastic glass made from corn was
    introduced. Ordinary plastics degrade very slowly. In some cases,
    burning plastic can release toxic fumes, leading to global warming
    problem,” said Mr Seki.While working to solve the serious pollution
    problems, the city accumulated a wealth of technical know-how, and now
    actively works to share that knowledge.Mr Jyun hopes that other
    countries in Asia will build up their environmental awareness so that
    they will not repeat the same mistakes as Kitakyushu. Noting that
    Kitakyushu is located in the centre of Asia, he said its lesson should
    be passed on to developing countries which are now struggling with
    environmental problems caused by industrialisation.”As far as I
    understand, many Asian countries do not pay much attention to the
    pollution problem. We are not in the position to tell other countries
    to do or not to do anything, we just keep on relating our bad
    experiences and providing the knowledge of how we solved our problems,”
    he says.Since 1980 the Kitakyushu model on tackling pollution has been
    brought to other countries through the help of the Japan International
    Cooperation Agency (Jica). Dalian, a city in a province of the same
    name in northeastern China, has adopted the model over the past 15
    years, during which time there has been a high level of cooperation
    between the the two cities. Local government officials from Dalian come
    for training at Kitakyushu. The success of the exchange was shown by
    the awarding of the UNEP Global 500 Award to Dalian in 2001.

    is not content to rest on the laurels of past environmental
    achievements. The city is striving to become a true “eco-town,” not
    only a nonpolluting but a no-waste zone, through reutilising the wastes
    of one industry or activity as the raw materials for another. This
    includes recycling automobiles, home appliances, office equipment,
    fluorescent tubes, medical devices, cooking oil and fat, used paper,
    washing and organic solvents and food refuse. Close cooperation between
    local authorities, industry and the public has resulted in the
    development of processes to create a truly environmentally conscious

    This includes a comprehensive system of recycling
    plants.According to a Kitakyushu city official, the aim is to be “an
    international resource recycling base in Asia. To combine environmental
    efforts with economic benefits for green and sustainable growth has
    become a vital international issue.”The concept of establishing
    “eco-towns” was initiated and implemented in 1997 as a joint policy of
    the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of the
    Environment.Under the policy, local governments receive support for
    projects aimed at stimulating regional development through
    environment-related industries. Local administrations which have been
    designated “eco-towns” are eligible to receive subsidies from the
    national government for building facilities such as recycling plants.

    City was the first of 18 eco-towns in Japan to receive accreditation,
    in the year 2002, from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and
    the Ministry of the Environment.The majority of the city’s recycling
    plants are established along the seashore in Kitakyushu’s Hibikinada
    district, an extensive stretch of 2000 hectares along the eastern
    coastline.The scale of the complex is huge, with specialised plants for
    recycling different items.In the Hibiki Recycling area, seven
    automobile recycling companies are operating. Also, cooking oil
    discarded from food production plants is recycled and reproduced as
    animal feed, construction paint materials and alternative fuel.In the
    Hibikinada East Area, there are waste wood and plastic recycling
    projects, a pachinko and slot machine recycling project, a project to
    reuse appliances such as personal computers and printer toner cartridge
    recycling project. In this area, the first wind power generation
    project in Japan supplies power for electricity generating.Kitakyushu
    city benefits from an advanced commercial and industrial
    infrastructure, including industrial waste disposal facilities such as
    the one for PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), which are very toxic
    substances.In conjunction with its eco-town status, Kitakyushu city has
    established the Kitakyushu Science and Research Park, which undertakes
    education and fundamental research. Here there are joint research
    projects with universities from around the world to promote a broad
    based exchange of environmentally sound technology.