Citizen-Initiated Public Works for Establishment of Sustainable Society and Environment Conservation in the Lake Kasumigaura Catchment Area
-Uniting Lakes, Forests, and People-
The 20th Century witnessed Japan enduring numerous pollution cases. The Tone River basin, the ground of our environmental revival actions, suffered Japan’s largest pollution case, the “Ashio Mine Pollution” 100 years ago. The modernization-oriented government excessively set industrial production above environmental concerns, which resulted in massive environmental destruction and disregard for citizen’s human rights.
Criticizing the government’s stance, Shozo Tanaka led the first-ever environmental conservation movement in Japan. Nevertheless, a number of development projects, one after another, went on destroying the ecosystem of the Tone River basin.
The Asaza Project is a public works initiated by community members, which aims to restore the long-damaged ecosystem of the Tone River basin and to work toward creating a cyclical society in harmony with nature.
2. Problems Lake Kasumigaura Faces
Lake Kasumigaura (including Lake Kitaura) ranks second only to Lake Biwa in area (220 km2) with a catchment basin about 10 times the lake area, and first in total shoreline (250 km) from among all Japanese lakes. It is a large shallow lake with a depth of 4 m, located at the most downstream part of a river system.
Located in the Tokyo metropolitan area, for the purpose of water utilization and flood control, the Kasumigaura Development Project (1969-1995, total construction cost: 27.4 billion yen) surrounded the lake with a concrete revetment, which devastated the ecosystem by depleting the lake-wide vegetation zones. Concurrent works, such as construction of a river sluice gate and a catchment basin, together rapidly aggravated the lake water quality. The lake fishery, which once sported the nation’s highest catches of pond smelt and white bait, was the worst hit: the total catch the Nishiura area decreased to one-quarter compared to its heyday figures, in the Kitaura area the catch was one-tenth previous highs. In 1973, due to the massive outbreak of blue green algae, catastrophic death of firm-raised carp stood at 1,500 ton. In 2003, carp herpes virus totally annihilated carp breeding in the Lake Kasumigaura.
Currently, the Lake Kasumigaura requires comprehensive environment conservation projects, including not only fishery promotion and conservation of paddy fields in ravine, water source of the Lake Kasumigaura, in the catchment, but also improvement of water pollution.
3. Launch of Asaza Project
Various government-initiated measures and projects were implemented against the unfolding water pollution and ailing biodiversity in Lake Kasumigaura, which endured environmental devastation due to eco-unconscious development. Although these schemes temporarily relieved the pollution, the water quality again deteriorated, and continued to do so with no signs of improvement.
There is a widely spreading acknowledgment that a better lake environment requires a coalition of separately conducted projects under a catchment-wide comprehensive strategy. In line with this trend, the government organized a project team consisting of the authorities concerned, although few catchment-wide measures nor a total watershed management projects have been put to practice thus far.
What is needed is a new concept and mechanism that will create a coalition of a variety of government agencies and other bodies related to Lake Kasumigaura and its catchment area. The Asaza Project is a cooperative project launched in response to this need. A non-profit organization free from conventional frameworks coordinates a setting for cooperation to work toward catchment-wide environmental conservation and restoration.
A society coexisting with nature requires a strategy to establish a localized “cyclical society”, where industry and education incorporate environmental conservation that protects the ecosystem, but still supports the productive flow of human activity, goods, and money. Coexistence with nature can only come true when the human and social networks established under this strategy and the ecological network overlap each other.
For this monumental work, grass-roots activities play a vital role by offering a key element for these networks: the bond among the vertically structured administrative policies and the social spheres to integrate the community from the community member’s point of view.
Since 1995, we have been engaged in the “Asaza Project: Lake Kasumigaura Revival Project Through Uniting Lakes, Forests, and People”, a mission based on the above strategy to establish a cyclical society coexisting with nature in the Lake Kasumigaura catchment area.
4. Asaza Project with Extensive Network Covering the Catchment Area
-Creation of Cooperative System without an Organization at the Center-
from Resident Participation to Administration Participation
The Asaza Project is engaged in a wide spectrum of activities, including restoration of the lake-wide vegetation zones, conservation of water source forests and paddy fields, eradication of foreign species of fish and water quality purification in fallow paddy fields, cooperating with environmental education and the latest research in conservation ecology in the catchment area. This Asaza Project is called “citizen-initiated public works project” with participation of more than 130,000 community members by October in 2006, from a wide variety of organizations such as civil groups, agriculture, forestry and fisheries industry, schools, companies, and governments. With this extensive network, a new social system is being established to achieve healthy water circulation and material circulation in ecosystem through biodiversity conservation.
Under the Asaza Project, at the center is not a specific organization but a cooperative system. Under which, environment conservation will be realized from within, through accomplishments of each goal set by each network, not by being bound by environment conservation policies as obligations or regulations, but by taking the initiative as revitalization of their own projects. We think that our role as a NPO is to coordinate “cooperative system” and “marketing system”.
For that, system transition should be carried out from “Residents Participation”, based on pyramid-style traditional society, to “Administration Participation” based on network-style society (which functions by placing right organizations into right projects without a specialized organization at the center). The Asaza Project also aims to expand this transition from pyramid-type to network-type system into every social activity.
Establishment of a wide-ranging network requires utilization of community networks already in place, such as agriculture, forest and fisheries networks based on natural environment and industry units, and elementary school networks based on local community units. In the Project, as a part of integrated learning with participation of residents, 170 elementary schools, over 90% of those in the catchment area, are being involved in such activities as growing and planting of native water plants in the lake, which is needed for government-organized Lake Kasumigaura Nature Restoration Project, past environmental survey conducted with senior people (setting goals for nature restoration), and wildlife monitoring in the catchment-wide area. These wide ranges of projects are supported by the latest technologies and at the same time, are utilized as a research field (a real social model) by the Laboratory of Conservation Ecology at Tokyo University and other research institutes.
Through sharing the cooperative system, integrated activities are being established connecting environment conservation, education, human resource development, scientific research and local revitalization conducted by a wide variety of organizations.
5. Nature-Conscious Public Work Project Creates Opportunities for Citizens’ Participation
The Asaza Project utilizes the lake’s work (laws) of nature to revive the lake-wide ecology. Specifically, we use native water plants in the lake such as vulnerable asaza
(Marsh Trefoil family, an endangered species). Floating hearts, as their name indicates, make a large community by forming their numerous heart-shaped leaves on the lake surface. This community absorbs the force of lakeshore waves, serving as breakwater to protect the reed field at the shoreline from erosion. At the same time, the floating heart community helps sand accumulate, which allows the growth of other plant life, including reeds. It is a natural capacity inherent in the waterside vegetation zones, and functions only when diverse water plant communities thrive continuously from the lakeshore toward offshore.
Our project denies forceful restoration of nature: we elicit the natural healing power of the lake where lakes revive by themselves. Although it takes time to regenerate the reed field, this method can gradually but steadily revive the lake-wide ecology.
Furthermore, the importance of the project lies in its character; anyone can join the project through various activities, such as raising and planting seedlings. The Asaza Foster Parent Program, where the floating heart seedlings are cultured for planting in the lake, has spread all over the catchment area through the elementary schools’ initiative. At present, biotope is installed at 113 elementary schools in the catchment area, and environmental education is being conducted in the integrated learning period at more than 200 schools.
It is actually one of the qualities of our project that the environmental remediation and the environmental education are integrated. By having an elementary school as the pivot in each community, children and grownups alike can strive toward the dream of “reviving Lake Kasumigaura”, and concurrently the entire community works to create a child-rearing environment. Human development for the future shares a crucial role in establishing a sustainable society. In order to expand the project to the entire lake, it is a prerequisite to allow participation of as many people as possible, whenever and wherever.
The Asaza Project was introduced in the Quality of the Environment in Japan 1998 published by the Environment Agency as “a cooperative project connecting diverse sectors of the community toward a total and careful, citizen-initiated watershed management from the headwaters to the lake”. The White Paper on National Life in 2004 named the Project as a “Citizen-Initiated Public Works to Protect Environment”.
We proposed this project as a public eco-restoration work. In other words, an alternative plan to the conventional masonry/concrete breakwaters that require massive civil engineering works. It is indeed a citizen-initiated public works project.
6. Construction of “Brushwood Breakwater” by Traditional Method of River Improvement
Local residents and schools have planted floating heart seedlings on different occasions. Regeneration of the floating heart community, however, is not so easy in a lake with an already weakened ecosystem. Due to the revetment, the waves were so rough that they often washed away the floating hearts before their roots were fully grounded. In this situation, we had to take steps to alleviate the waves coming from the offing.
Our attention focused on the traditional method of river improvement, a “brushwood mattress (brushwood breakwater)”. The brushwood breakwater is constructed as follows: first, logs are hammered into the lake bottom to form frames; and then the brushwood fascines are filled in the frames. By using the logs and brushwood from the watershed forest thinning for the brushwood breakwater, we can simultaneously conduct both forest conservation in the catchment area and lake revival. Construction of the brushwood breakwater developed a new dimension of the Asaza Project by broadening its horizons to the overall catchment basin, including the headwaters.
The forest coverage of the Lake Kasumigaura catchment basin has decreased to 20 percent. Forest depletion and deterioration are preventing healthy water circulation in the lake. In this sense, it is urged to implement forest conservation, with the total catchment basin in view. Through the adoption of our proposal, the Kasumigaura Construction Office of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport now conducts a lakeshore vegetation zone restoration project, which involves large-scale construction of brushwood breakwaters. This project has paved the way for the forest management from the catchment-wide point of view. A project beyond the ministerial boundaries is proceeding with a non-profit organization as its nucleus.
As an advanced technology to restore nature, the “Brushwood Breakwater” Project received the “Global 100 Eco-Tech Awards -Natural Shore Restoration Technology-” at the EXPO 2005 AICHI JAPAN.
7. The Project Grows Cyclically to Create a New Industry
Establishment of Kasumigaura Brushwood Fascine Association
In order to adopt the brushwood breakwater, we were able to institute a system for providing thinned-out brushwood. Brushwood is produced through managing the coppices (deciduous broad-leaved forest), such as thinning and undergrowth mowing. Most of the coppices in the watershed, however, had been abandoned for over 30 years. Consequently, the life and industry using the coppices have long been lost.
Brushwood supply from the coppices in the catchment area can only be achieved by creating a new industry through close ties with the local community. We needed an industry that provides the lake reviving project (brushwood breakwater) with fascines of brushwood collected through the coppice management in the catchment area. For this reason, we called on various self-employed businesses and companies who participated in the Asaza Project to organize the “Kasumigaura Brushwood Fascine Association Ltd.”. The eco-restoration action prepared the way for creating a new industry. The Association is committed to managing 20 ha of different forests every year. Their activities contribute to not only the nature conservation but also a positive social impact, i.e. job creation.
In the past, administrative bodies and community groups operated forest management in the catchment area. Nevertheless, their activities covered areas of only limited extent, far from the necessary spread of action required for a total lake-wide vision. These individual efforts can now join with those of the new industries, such as the Kasumigaura Brushwood Fascine Association Ltd. to help the local actions evolve into more diffuse and extensive ones. Total watershed expansion of the eco-restoration efforts vitally requires the tie-up with a local industry. The Kasumigaura Brushwood Fascine Association Ltd. is an enterprise devoted to forest management and fascine production on the basis of biodiversity conservation and headwater protection.
The Asaza Project is also engaged in a wide spectrum of other activities in various locations, including reed field restoration in partnership with fisheries cooperatives, biotope creation in fallow paddy fields in cooperation with farmers, a watershed management system construction linked with a school biotope network and the internet, and a nature restoration program with the influent river tying up the municipalities and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport.
The crucial element in creating a circulation in society is that each action and technology does not fall into self-containment. We need to evolve our efforts so that each action will spawn another in a chain-reaction manner to form a network. In this way, public works projects can also exert a cross-boundary ripple effect over the entire region.
8. Public Projects Led by Elementary School Children: Residents Carry Out Planning, Implementation, and Assessment
An extensive public project for nature revival has been implemented since 2001 throughout Lake Kasumigaura. This undertaking, a national public project, has been carried out based on the Asaza Project framework described above. We as an NPO play the important role of coordinator whose task is to relate this public project to various issues affecting the basin. The NPO also sits on the committee where future courses of action and consultation are conducted.
The detailed research on the natural environment of the Lake Kasumigaura had not been carried out before revetment construction works were started. The result is that administrative agencies and research institutes have no record of previous vegetation zones or the original scenery of the area where restoration of vegetation is now being conducted. We therefore chose to ask the children at the elementary schools around the restoration site to carry out research by asking their grandparents or nearby senior citizens for information on the former condition of the lakefront and to draw pictures of it together. We asked them to inquire about and make detailed drawings of what kind of water plants and aquatic animals used to live there and how senior citizens used to play there in their childhood.
In response to the information received, and we — together with universities, local children and members of the community — are going to make a plan for vegetation restoration and cultivate the young plants needed. At each elementary school, there is a biotope where typical water plants from Lake Kasumigaura are planted. These water plants grown in the biotope will be used later for the restoration of vegetation of the lake.
After the project is completed, the effects of the project will be assessed through research conducted by elementary school children and community members investigating whether or not wildlife has revived and whether or not water quality is improved. It will also be recorded to what extent carp and crucian carp come and spawn in the restored shallows and how great reed warblers nest and swallows roost in the restored reed beds.
This citizen-initiated project, supported by the Asaza Project, is a new type of public project in which community members and elementary school children participate together in planning, implementation, and assessment. It is hoped that this public project will also have positive effects not only on the environment but also on the community, particularly with respect to education, welfare, and industry. Although we are proceeding with environmental education at a catchment level, public financial supports are not available for an environmental activity at a catchment level, which leads to financially difficult situations currently we face.
9. New Developments Created by Cooperative System
In the Lake Kasumigaura, 56 influent rivers are small or middle-sized with no large influent river. Most of the headwaters are located in places called a paddy field in ravine, which were developed in crisscross valleys in hills. Paddy fields in ravine are spread in the form of network in the catchment-wide area. Due to a government policy of a reduction of rice acreage, many of those are fallow and deteriorated. In some area, a problem of industrial waste has arisen. A traditional problem solving system initiated by government couldn’t take drastic measures against deteriorated paddy fields in ravine. Although we are promoting conservation projects at a catchment level, a public financial support is difficult to obtain in the current situations.
The Asaza Fund has been calling on companies to participate in headwaters conservation and establishment of a catchment management system. In response to this, Nippon Electric Corporation (NEC) performed a field experiment in 2003 with a network sensor, then-under-development, at elementary schools and paddy fields in ravine. The project is as follows: environmental data such as temperature, humidity and amount of insolation are transferred from a sensor to a sensor by radio wave driven by solar battery. Those sensors will be installed at wildlife path in paddy fields in ravine in the catchment area and elementary schools in line with environment learning. This project is aimed at indicating a possibility of a technology linked with community activities, and at developing a system to collect continuous data on wildlife and environment in each catchment unit.
(1) “Establishment of Local Environment Monitoring by Means of IT and Business Developments”
We have been jointly developing a system since 2003 to collect environmental data in the catchment area on a daily basis, using the Sensor Network System (ad hoc multi-hop communication technology) developed by NEC, which can send environmental data (temperature, humidity and image) by radio wave driven by solar battery. Under this project, integrated learning at schools in the catchment area will be carried out, assuming frog migration, by installing sensors in frogs’ habitats in each school area. After that, wildlife observation record and environmental data will be shared on a daily basis through school network in the catchment-wide area by means of IT. Due to an unprecedented quality and volume of environmental data collection, in terms of an spatial expansion in the catchment area and time continuity on a daily basis, this project can lead to establishment of a catchment management system, when realized.
Schools which have installed sensors:
Ishioka City Ishioka Elementary School,
Ishioka City Ishioka-Minami Elementary School,
Itako City Nobukata Elementary School,
Ushiku City Mukoudai Elementary School,
Katagami City Ookubo Elementary School, Akita pref.,
Ishioka city Higashi-Tanaka kitanoiri (paddy field)
* “Creating a Global Wildlife Species’ Paths Project”
Nature restoration projects require understanding and participation of community members, continuity of environmental monitoring on a daily basis and careful management. The project mentioned above will serve as a fundamental system in the catchment area for the return of wildlife such as Japanese crested ibises and white storks.
In order to expand this environmental education program from the catchment area to nationwide, farther oversees, and to develop into a cooperation of schools located near migration routes of such wildlife as migratory birds, we launched “Creating a Global Wildlife Species’ Paths Project”. For this, an Internet website has been established at the time of “EXPO 2005 AICHI JAPAN” held in 2005. At present, cooperation with Asian NGOs is under way. We aim at building up a global network beyond borders for environment conservation and peace with a local community (a school area) as a unit.
(2) NEC’ Paddy Field Development with Asaza Fund
[PHOTO: rice transplanting by NEC employees]
The joint development of the catchment management system through use of the network sensor prompted a program launched in 2003, in order to implement a restoration project of deteriorated paddy fields in ravine in cooperation with NEC, community members and the Asaza Fund in 2003. In Higashitanaka, Ishioka city, Ibaragi pref., a new type of headwaters conservation model is proceeding, tying up with companies, NPOs and local areas (local industries including sake brewing, miso manufacturing and agriculture, and community members).
For conservation of paddy fields in ravine, utilizing them as a paddy field is considered to be the most desirable way. Labor-intensive farming in paddy fields in ravine, however, is unprofitable in food rice cultivation, as most of the paddy fields in ravine have been abandoned due to a government policy of a reduction of rice acreage. Still there is rice suitable for paddy fields in ravine. It is “sake rice (rice for sake brewing)”. High-quality sake rice need to be larger grains, low in protein and fat, with a suppressed grass height. For that, sake rice should be cultivated with much less use of fertilizer, which creates desirable conditions for headwaters conservation. Such adversary conditions in paddy fields in ravine as lower water temperatures and weaker fertilizer effect turn to advantages for sake rice cultivation. Furthermore, it isn’t against a government policy of a reduction of rice acreage targeted at food rice, as sake rice is a processed one.
By restoring deteriorated fallow paddy fields in ravine and carrying out year-round management modeled on a traditional farming, the headwaters conservation project is being implemented in those areas. Utilizing paddy fields, surrounding fields and forests as an activity field to raise environmental awareness of employees, NEC bears farmland management expenditure. In paddy fields restoration, initial foundation construction cost was partially covered by a subsidy program, and development construction cost for farming land use and the restoration cost was borne by NEC.
Under a management by farmers with a right to cultivation, participants experience year-round faming ranging from rice planting, weeding, harvesting, threshing, management operation in winter to field cultivation. The Asaza Fund conducts a year-round program, including sake brewing and miso manufacturing with harvested rice and soy beans as ingredients, nature observation, bamboo craft and experience of traditional events. Employees and their families participate with travel costs at their expenses.
This program aims at raising environmental awareness such as consideration for nature environment and food safety through an agricultural experience. About 650 of employees and their families participated in the 2004 fiscal year, about 1000 in the 2005 fiscal year.
In cultivation of rice and others, in order not to add a load to ecosystem and water quality while pursuing food safety, we don’t use agricultural chemicals at all, and fertilizers until the second year. After the third year, we are planning to use organic fertilizers such as compost or fish powder of foreign species. We try to keep a load to water quality to a minimum by not bringing in fertilizer material from outside.
A NEC liaison office publishes news on the program proceedings and results through such means as the Internet to share information with employees who haven’t participated. Cooperating with other unfamiliar employees from different divisions, and deepening a family bond, environmental awareness has been changing among employees and their families who participated in the program conducted in a nature, difficult to experience in an urban area. Understanding of the project concepts of headwaters conservation has been increasing among participants who were initially interested only in “a paddy field” or “sake brewing” as a part of their hobbies or interests. Through rice cultivation which takes a long period of time, they’ve come to pay attentions not only to products themselves but to its process behind the products. The project is also utilized for their own business as a place for on-site experiment with new technologies including such developments as metrological observation equipments and the catchment area management system.
Restored paddy fields are being used in a variety of ways not only by NEC employees but also by local residents, children and elementary schools for walking, playing, and field observation (study in headwaters functions and wildlife migration) respectively. Management of the surrounding forests are being carried out by volunteers, “One-day Lumberjacks”, recruited from the public, including volunteer NEC employees. The year-round program aimed at NEC employees is supported by local people including land owners with special consideration in the use of facilities, supply of technological instructions and agricultural equipments which led to a recreation of a part of local culture such as a farming by hand, now out of use.
As a new program, rice cultivation free of agricultural chemicals and chemical fertilizer in paddy fields has started under a system of government purchasing rice. Although the area is small, this program has been adopted in Hokota city
We won an Environment Partnership Award in June 2005, and Mie Prefectural Environmental Management Grand Prize Environmental Cooperation Award in June 2006.
(1) Cooperation with Ushiku City -Town Planning to Meet Kappa-
A wide range of problems have arisen as a result of break-downs of networks between people and people, people and nature, and nature and nature in society. We view an environmental problem as one of them. Today’s town planning requires reestablishment of these networks. For that to be achieved, integrated learning plays an important role.
Ushiku city is “a town surrounded by waterways” formed by the two water systems of Ushiku Swamp and Lake Kasumigaura, paddy fields in ravine of both water systems are faced by hills. Old communities were always formed at the entrance of paddy fields in ravine, and people established a town with paddy fields in ravine, waterheads, as its foundation.
The Asaza Fund has made a proposal of “Town Planning to Meet Kappa (legendary animal living in water in Japan)” aimed at all elementary and junior high schools in Ushiku city. In cooperation with Ushiku Education Board since April 2004, in order to reestablish networks between people and people, and people and nature, we have provided a long, short, and one-time integrated learning plans throughout year, discovering possibilities of local communities from various viewpoints. In the process of connecting communities with children’s urge for study and sensibility as a driving force, we are planning to build independent communities equipped with restored functions inherent in a society of welfare, security and disaster prevention and such. We have been engaged in installing an environment conservation system firmly into town planning, not to fall into self-containment.
○Town Planning from the Viewpoints of Wildlife
When it comes to local revitalization, a wide variety of slogans are adopted. The Asada Fund project has been carried out under the slogan of town planning “to live with wildlife, utilizing local characteristics.” The first program was launched at the Itako City Nobekata Elementary School in the 2003 fiscal year. To create roads to coexist with wildlife path, a road map was drawn up by children who had noticed wildlife path, from Maekawa, in their school area, to their school, would be cut off by a road planed by city hall.
Town’s possibilities are difficult to detect from people’s viewpoints, however, not difficult from wildlife’s (others’) viewpoints. There would be no adults but cooperate with children who try to suggest improvement measures after finding good points about a town. By supporting integrated learning at schools, this program infuses children’s fresh sensibility into town planning to revitalize local communities.
To carry out a town planning coexisting with wildlife, we first focus on natural characteristics inherent in a local area.
Ushiku city is a town where paddy fields in ravine of the two water systems in Lake Kasumigaura and Ushiku Swamp a face each other. A map made in the Edo era shows crisscross paddy fields in ravine. The distance between two paddy fields in ravine of two water systems in River Ono (Lake Kasumigaura) and in Ushiku Swamp is less than 500m. A paddy field in ravine is a standard unit of local ecosystems, towns (local communities) as well as headwaters. Even these days, public facilities such as schools and community centers are located on the heights facing a large paddy field in ravine.
When we proceed with town planning ｂｙ making the best use of local characteristics, we face problems mentioned at the beginning. Ushiku city is no exception. Due to a drop in spring water quantity caused by residential land developments, a rise in fallow paddy fields and reclamation, crisscross paddy fields in ravine networks in the past in the city are now cut off in at many places.
○-Let’s Think with Kappa! Problems finding from Others’ Perspective-
How can we utilize paddy fields in ravine? It’s not confined to paddy fields in ravine. How shall we find possibilities of a town?
You would know the answers if you asked kappa, a symbol of Ushiku field sceneries. Kappa used to wander around from Lake Kasumigaura to Ushiku Swamp, using crisscross paddy fields in ravine as a path. Kappa is also a symbol of wildlife, as they tend to feel lonely and shy. They wouldn’t appear in absence of other wildlife.
To discover town’s possibilities, you are required to become capable of talking to kappa, to acquire a kappa’s viewpoint and from which, to look into a city. What would a town look like in the eyes of kappa? Conditions needed for path for kappa are similar to those for frogs, which are lacking in migration ability and threatened with extinction. They are not good at dryness, as they absorb water from skin. They like shade, waterside, forest and grassland. Children make a guess about possible kappa’s path by checking a map drawn in the past and marking spots where they saw wildlife moving.
Then, children ask senior people, who used to live with kappa, what paddy fields in ravine and a town used to be like. On the spot fact-finding conducted last year found that eels had gone up to paddy fields in ravine along River Ono in the past. Children were amazed at the story and realized that this paddy field in ravine used to be wildlife path, leading to Lake Kasumigaura and farther to the sea. At the same time, they are surprised at that kappa used to be in a life of the senior people. How did they used to live with kappa?
○Let’s Create Path for Kappa! Action and Proposal for Problems Solving
Conservation and restoration of path for kappa (many kinds of wildlife) is a key to planning a town coexisting with nature. We can make plenty of discoveries and come up with ideas to connect path for kappa. Children’s ideas and creativities are beyond our imaginations. What’s important, however, is to aim at creating a town living with kappa not a town for kappa. We are required to think about wishes made by both kappa and people, and to find two plans to realize both. One is a long-term goal which you want to accomplish at any cost, despite possibilities of a need to talk to many people, high cost or a long period of time. The other is a short-term goal which leads to a long-term goal and is easy to work on.
Into the second year under this program, proposals made by children have become more realistic. At one school, children have made a concrete restoration plan of paddy fields in ravine, and appealed to city hall. While children have been involved in designing, measuring and taking such procedures as local explanation meetings, the proposal led to a public works project which is about to start. It’s a town planning (cooperation of children and adults) come true by children’s abundant sensibilities
○-Local Support System Raise Children by Whole Community!-
It is a town planning executive committee that supports children’s activities. Consisted of City Education Board members, civil servants at city hall, school teachers, NPOs and researchers, they are cooperating centering on integrated learning for children. An effective system is working by sharing programs among schools and utilizing their experiences. We try to make good use of this system in town planning.
We regard an integrated learning as a new study opportunity created by cooperation among children and adults. That’s because we think it will become possible to create a new society by tying up children’s sensibility (general recognition) and adult’s intelligence (analysis, assessment). By this way, a program toward town planning based on the result of a children’s integrated learning have been under way in any municipalities such as Itako city.
(2) Itako City -Mt. Inari “Forest as Poem Word” Project
When Itako flourished as a water town, Mt. Inari was at the cultural center and frequented by many poets. However it has deteriorated. A restoration plan of a water city Itako has been under way through conservation of paddy fields in ravine in Hattanda, a part of water source forest in Mt.Inari, centered on integrated learning at a nearby elementary school with participation of the chief priest of Chosyoji temple and residents.
(3) Kashima City – Kashima Shrine Forest as Habitat for Japanese Crested Ibises and Ibis Storks A Hundred-Year Plan –
In the past, forest at Kashima Shrine and surrounding paddy fields in ravine were connected into a large green sacred area. Due to recent modernization, the forest has been ruined, and divided. Conservation of Kashima Shrine forest, surrounding paddy fields in ravine and waterside should be needed. With an aim of “Japanese crested ibises and white storks nesting in the forest at Kashima Shrine and collecting food in the nearby greenland and paddy fields in ravine”, the Asaza Fund has been proceeding with an implementation plan involving residents, with a integrated learning at a nearby elementary school at the center.
-Project Launch of Water Purification System in Cooperation with Eradication of Foreign Species of Fish and Organic Farming-
In Lake Kasumigaura, foreign species of fish has been a serious problem. The Asaza Fund signed an Environmental Partnership Agreement in October 2004, with “Agricultural Corporation Guild” and “NPO Corporation Eco-Town Hokota” both based in the Lake Kasumigaura catchment area, and started a water purification project, tying up eradication of foreign species of fish with organic farming. In the project, we purchase foreign species of fish caught by dealers, process the fish into fish powder for the use in organic farming, and promote distribution of organic agricultural products to be purchased by consumers. By effectively removing phosphorus and nitrogen, a cause of eutrophication, we think that realistic proposals based on concepts unique to NPO and implementation of a model project can lead to solutions to difficult problems with water pollution and increasing foreign species of fish, not depending on the public financial support such as subsidy.
With cooperation from Kitaura Extensive Fisheries Cooperative and Lake Kasumigaura Fisheries Association, fish catch stood at 96 ton in the 2005 fiscal year, including many kinds of foreign species of fish and unutilized fish.
For the compost use, landed fish was transported to a compost site, on a contract to Guild Ltd., Remaining fish was processed to 69.4 ton of fish powder at Kogatsuru Store Ltd., in Namisaki-cho in Ibaragi pref., and Central Feed Cooperation Inc. in Narita city in Chiba pref., and distributed to supporters of the Environmental Partnership.
An analysis, conducted at the Environment Research Center of Tsukuba City Hall, has ensured the fish safety with the density of mercury, cadmium, lead and arsenic all below standards required by law.
In February 2006, cucumbers shipped by JA Yasato and eggs by Guild Ltd. were sold at supermarket Kurishima Sun Mall and BIO Marche Urawa-Nakamachi Store respectively.
Each product was named a brand name of “Lake friendly Cucumber” and “Lake Friendly Egg”, and their illustrations were prepared. (Picture) In November, sale of “Lake Friendly Cucumber” has started at Super Kasumi in Tsukuba city, Ushiku city, and Tsuchiura city.
Kanji character 食, which means “eat or food” in English, consists of two parts meaning “good for people. From an entrance of eating, consumers think about a lake, feel fishery and agriculture, and can proceed to an environmentally friendly lifestyle. We are planning to expand this project into food education at schools in the catchment area.
This fish powder project received “Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank Award” at the eco japan cup 2006.
-Let’s Take a Look at the Catchment from Space-
When we contemplate water pollution problems in Lake Kasumigaura, we tend to pay attentions to an influx load (negative factors), and to forget healthy functions as headwaters of paddy fields in the catchment-wide area, which support the lake environment. (positive factors)
Water source which support Lake Kasumigaura with few large influent rivers is a large numbers of paddy fields in ravine in the catchment area. Nevertheless due to a rise in cultivation abandonment, adverse influences on water quality conservation and flood control have been great concerns. However it is difficult to obtain data on water source “quality (health and continuity of water circulation)”, and a change in data. For this to be realized, we need to show people a whole picture of the catchment area, to deepen understanding of water source conservation, including paddy fields, agricultural reservoirs and forests, and to encourage people to take action. Each action initiated by people can lead to an embodiment of a not-yet-established catchment management system, a system to grasp an overview of water source.
The Asaza Fund, in cooperation with the Remote Sensing Technology Center Foundation, Ushiku City Education Board, has been engaged in the development by conserving and restoring positive factors (water source quality), not by reducing negative factors (an influx load), with a view of the catchment-wide area as a spacious plane. With paddy fields in ravine in Ushiku city as a model area, a study program has been under way in line with ecosystem survey of existing conditions, and is planed to be expanded into the catchment-wide area. At present, elementary and junior high school students are investigating paddy fields in ravine with spring water, which are extracted from satellite images, and collecting data on such as ranid spawn. This indicates possibilities of new satellite utilization based on local community functions.
Projects modeled on Asaza Project have launched nationwide such as in Lake Hachiro, Akita pref., Lake Biwa, Shiga pref. Modeled on the Asaza Project, in particular, the Lake Hachiro Restoration Project conducted by Akita Prefectural Local Revitalization Agency, now into the third year, has been extensively developing in the catchment-wide area. With many inspections from overseas, it draws huge attentions as an Asian model, with the rooted Japanese view of nature, of nature preservation and environment conservation in cooperation with local communities. We are now trying to realize nature preservation and local revitalization concurrently, through original projects based on Asian concepts, which are different from nature preservation strategies adopted by the Western countries.
10. Watarase Future Project
The “Watarase Future Project” was launched in 2000 with the aim of reviving the “Watarase Reservoir” (Watarase Wetland), one of the two major wetlands in the Kanto area, along with the Lake Kasumigaura. There is an ongoing project aiming at the future comeback of wild white storks and Japanese crested ibises by relating these two wetland projects.
As for the Watarase Future Project, it is proposed that reeds from the reservoir should be utilized in the forest revival program in the Ashio Mountains upstream. In this project to invigorate communities, an integral environment revival project will also be carried out by linking the public project (afforestation for flood control) upstream with local industry (the reed screen-manufacturing industry) downstream.
The Watarase wetland has the most extensive reed beds in Japan, which are home to many endangered species. These reed beds have been maintained by the local reed screen-manufacturing industry. Overwhelmed by imports of reeds, however, this industry has been declining in recent years, leading to endangerment of the reed beds.
In response to this situation, we proposed that another source of demand for reeds should be created: the utilization of the reeds from the Watarase wetland in the forest revival program in the Ashio Mountains upstream. Assisting and promoting this local industry would protect the vast reed beds. This initiative was started by including the subject in lessons in elementary schools. Experiments also started in collaboration with the Forestry Agency. In the past, the forest had been poisoned by sulfurous acid from the Ashio Mine pollution and the resultant deforestation had allowed large amounts of soil and nutrients to be swept out of the Ashio Mountains. Rain and floods drove many of these nutrients into the Watarase Reservoir (Watarase wetland). Attempts have now begun to return these nutrients to the Ashio Mountains in the form of reeds through an environment revival project. Reeds are utilized in the forest revival program in the Ashio Mountains, both to prevent soil erosion and as compost.
11. A 100-Year Plan for a Sustainable Society
The 20th century was an era when human beings tried to control nature and society by force and caused inordinate destruction and pollution, not to mention engaging in numerous wars and disputes. In the Asaza Project, the retrieval of the natural environment of the lake and the transformation of society are not being carried out by force. This approach will provide our society with a profound, beneficent transformation. The strategy being adopted will add an environmental conservation instinct to existing society, rooted in communities, to produce approaches expanding itself onto the surroundings, and also promote a qualitative transformation in society by creating awareness in each organization of their connection with the whole of society. From the viewpoint of environment conservation, other values will be found in the existing system and rooted in society through a new relationship (network) based on conservation of the environment. These changes, under the concept of the local ecology conservation, will restructure the society.
Accordingly, the coexistence with nature requires two mutually interactive strategies: a theory of conservation to define mechanisms (the elements and their relations) that support the local “integrity of biodiversity” and “maintaining a sound ecosystem”; and restructuring of the social system whereby such mechanisms are implemented in society through tuning with real-life social elements. We believe that it affords a creative and effective approach.
When it comes to nature preservation and conservation of the environment, it is difficult to encourage people to take the initiative if they are merely harassed with regulations and restrictions. Therefore, although nature conservation and environmental preservation are essentially creative processes, they will not be embraced by contemporary society, which is based on individualism (i.e., personal senses of values) unless they produce new interesting and credible cultures, societies, technologies, values, and lifestyles. The Asaza Project has been proposed as one type of creative approach with this as its aim.
More significantly, a revival scenario set 100 years from now will be needed to avoid a catastrophic scenario in 100 years. We do not need a goal of “escaping destruction” but a goal of “reviving” to motivate people to act on their own initiative.
For this purpose, the process of environmental revival and construction of a sustainable society should be presented using specific pictures (e.g., the comeback of wildlife). Of course, this is not just a dream or wish: it must be supported scientifically and politically.
The Asaza Project is a long-term 100-year plan with the set goal of the return of specific species of wildlife every decade (front page). Each wildlife species represents a particular environmental element to be revived in the lake and basin with the measures needed for that purpose. The goals are as follows: great reed warblers in 10 years, cuckoos and whooper swans in 20 years, bean geese in 30 years, white storks in 40 years, cranes in 50 years, and Japanese crested ibises in 100 years. It is a plan to reverse the extinction of ibises that has taken place in Japan’s last 100 years of modernization. We want to represent, in the form of an image of countryside graced by flying ibises, what people tried to protect and to regain through their struggles against the Ashio Mine Pollution tragedy a century ago and subsequent pollution problems such as Minamata disease.
Non-Profit Organization : Azasa Fund
Address : 6-387, Sakae, Ushiku, Ibaragi, 300-1233 Japan
TEL: 029-871-7166 FAX: 029-871-7169
Person in Charge : Shigeko Suwa