An NPO is working on the “Asaza Project”, an enterprise to revive Lake Kasumigaura and develop a richer ecological relationship among the lake, forest, and the local population. Participated in by organizations of various kinds in the catchment basin of the lake, the Asaza Project aims to resurrect the lake as well as serve as a local community revitalization program and an area-wide environmental education program. The Asaza Project, an environmental conservation and restoration project for Lake Kasumigaura and its entire catchment basin, is carried out by a wide-area network of diverse participants, such as community members, NGOs, NPOs, local governments, schools, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries, corporations, and research institutes. The cooperation of these supporters has made the Project a highly citizen-initiated public works that makes it different from any other conventional public works project.
Participants in the Asaza Project so far consist of some 110,000 citizens, and including 170 elementary schools and companies in the catchment basin. Some elementary and junior high schools hold lessons supported by the Project. Environmental education provided by the Project is an integral part of the environment revival project. This monolithic relationship is demonstrated by the participation of schools in national public works programs for environmental revivals conducted at the lake as early as during the planning stage.
The Asaza Project has formed an organizational system to manage forests in the catchment basin in parallel with the lake revival programs. Wide-area conservation of the environment is realized by applying forest management concepts that fits the principle of conservation of the natural environment. These programs also contribute to the growth of industry and creation of employment opportunities in the area.
The scope of the Project extends farther than the lake and the woods: paddy fields, feeder rivers, ponds, and various other environments are also the subjects of environmental protection programs under the Project. Through these programs are realized new initiatives beyond existing administrative frameworks, such as coordination among public works projects originally conducted individually by the central government and local governments.
The Asaza Project was introduced in the Quality of the Environment in Japan 1998 published by the Environment Agency as “a forward-looking example toward a total and careful, community-initiated watershed management from the headwaters to the lake”. The White Paper on Construction for the same year also named the Project as a “Citizen-Initiated Public Works.”
The ultimate goal of the Asaza Project is to establish a cyclical society through the coordinated efforts of a range of organizations to create, 100 years from now, an environment and society in which Japanese crested ibises can comfortably live and flourish. Lake Kasumigaura has an environment similar to those in developing countries in Asia or Africa, since it is located at the most downstream part of a river system. The Project also serves as an environmental conservation program that makes effective use of the existing social infrastructure. This is why environmental conservation and local revitalization are promoted together as a single scheme in the Project. Lessons learned from and products achieved by the Asaza Project are therefore expected to be effectively applied to environmental conservation efforts in developing countries.