Ramsar Implementation in Japan
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Japan’s commitment and support to the conservation of wetlands and to the implementation of the Convention is unique. This support extends from local communities and environmental NGOs, to local and central government - there is even a special parliamentarian group that promotes the aims of the Convention.
The Conference of the Parties held in Kushiro City in 1993 (COP5) contributed to raise interest in Ramsar and wetland conservation in the country, and the interest and engagement have been increasing since then.
From 7 to 11 April, the Ramsar Secretary General and the Senior Regional Advisor for Asia-Oceania visited Japan to see the conservation work being conducted at two Ramsar Sites, as well as to meet government ministries, organizations, NGOs and private sector partners.
|Wetland by the Maruyama River being restored for flood control and wildlife|
The visit began at the “Lower Maruyama River and the surrounding rice paddies” Ramsar Site located by Toyooka City. The city is well known for having reintroduced the endangered Oriental White Stork Ciconia boyciana which became extinct in Japan in 1971. As part of the programme, the city has successfully released over 70 individuals which are now breeding in the wild. This success is due to the long-term support from the local government and community, which created artificial breeding habitat and reduced pesticide use in the rice paddies where the Oriental White Stork feeds. Wetlands alongside the Maruyama River are also being restored to provide flood control during the rainy season as well as habitat for the Oriental White Stork and other wildlife.
|Tai Hamlet where local villagers are restoring their wetlands||‘An-Girls’ tour guides (in light blue jackets) at Tai Hamlet|
Ramsar’s Secretary General and Senior Advisor also visited Tai Hamlet by Toyooka City, where the villagers are transforming abandoned rice paddy into natural wetlands for the Oriental White Stork under a two-year project supported by Evian’s “École de protection de l’eau”. This project is also supporting the villagers to develop alternative livelihoods, such as a tourism programme for students and other visitors to see the restored wetland, including a guided tour with the “An-girls”, ladies from the village.
|View of the Nakaikemi-shicchi Ramsar Site|
The Ramsar team also visited the Nakaikemi-shicchi Ramsar Site by Tsuruga City. It is a lowland moor with peat that is approximately 40 metres deep and which was developed for rice cultivation 400 years ago, creating a diversity of wetland habitats. When the area was designated as a Ramsar Site in 2012, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLITT) announced its intention to realign a proposed high-speed railway line and move it closer to the boundary of the Ramsar Site. As this project would involve tunnelling through the mountain inside the edge of the site, there are concerns that it would impact on the underground hydrology and the water that feeds the site. The new alignment would also bring the railway line closer to the entrance of the site and to the visitor centre. A team of experts has been established to assess the possible impacts and their report will be available at the end of 2014. During the visit to Japan, the Ramsar Secretary General met representatives of MLITT and the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency (JRTT) and expressed concerns over this project. He also requested JRTT to share with the Secretariat the report of the group of experts.
In Tokyo, the Secretary General and the Senior Advisor met representatives of government ministries (including Foreign Affairs, Environment and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), companies (including Danone-Japan, Keidanren Committee on Nature Conservation), and NGOs. Meetings were also held with the Japan Internal Cooperation Agency (JICA) that is implementing many wetland related projects worldwide, including 10 at Ramsar Sites.
|Ramsar Secretary General presenting his vision for the Convention|
Lastly, the Secretary General attended a wetland symposium organized by JICA where he presented his vision on the future of the Convention. The Secretariat will continue to work closely with the many partners of the Ramsar Convention in Japan to support wetland conservation in the country and internationally.
Report and photos by Lew Young, Senior Regional Advisor for Asia-Oceania