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Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010

'Satoyama' idea gets regional plug

But as governors meet in Nagoya, namesake nearby site bulldozed

Staff writer

NAGOYA — Prefectural officials, including governors committed to expanding "satoyama" traditional land conservation efforts throughout Japan and worldwide, met Wednesday in Nagoya to discuss protecting and promoting the concept at the provincial level.

News photo
Concept vs. reality: Land development work continues at Hirabari Satoyama in Nagoya last month despite Japan's efforts to make "satoyama" a buzzword at the COP10 biodiversity conference being held in the city. COURTESY OF FUMIE SOMIYA

Yet on the same day, Nagoya residents fighting to stop destruction of a local landscapes were getting ready to make an appeal to the Nagoya District Court over a case highlighting the limits of what local governments can actually do to save such areas from developers.

At the governor's meeting, which took place on the sidelines of the COP10 environmental conference, Vice Environment Minister Shoichi Kondo spoke on national efforts to protect and promote satoyama initiatives, noting local governments that have seen a growing loss of biodiversity in the past few decades are becoming more interested in preservation in a traditional sense.

"Satoyama belong to all people. To preserve them for the future, we need not only cooperation on conservation efforts on the part of local residents but also from civil society, businesses and NGOs," he said.

Ishikawa Prefecture has taken the lead in introducing a comprehensive satoyama-themed preservation system. Gov. Masanori Tanimoto said 60 percent of the prefecture contains such areas, and that traditional "satoumi" practices — the marine version of nature conservation efforts — such as the harvesting of sea salt, have been turned into local businesses helping to revitalize towns along the coast.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which organized COP10, noted the concept is now international and thousands of people around the world are studying what Japan is doing and applying satoyama techniques to their own lands to preserve biodiversity.

But even as the meeting was trumpeting satoyama success stories, a long simmering struggle between environmental activists, Nagoya and a local developer over a satoyama in the city being razed for development was headed to the Nagoya District Court.

Hiroaki Somiya, a Nagoya University honorary professor and leader of a movement to save Hirabari Satoyama, is scheduled to deliver a statement Thursday calling on the court to rescind the development permit issued by the city.

"Hirabari Satoyama has varieties of wildlife, such as rice fish, that cannot be found elsewhere in Nagoya," Somiya said, adding, however, that the city can't do anything because the land is in the hands of a private developer.

"On the one hand, the central government has a national satoyama initiative strategy and COP10, which is meeting to preserve biodiversity, is being held in Nagoya," he said. "On the other hand, destruction of satoyama and biodiversity within Nagoya continues because a city planning law over 40 years old allows for the destruction of greenery, and the central government doesn't have the legal authority to step in."


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