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Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012

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Water, water everywhere: The Misono complex in Itabashi Ward is one of Tokyo's 11 high-tech water purification plants. HIROKO NAKATA

Tokyo pitches its water technology to Africa delegates

Staff writer

African delegations attending the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank this week visited a Tokyo water purification plant Wednesday to get a first-hand look at Japan's advanced technology and possibly utilize the knowhow in securing safe drinking water in their home countries.

News photo
Delegates from Burkina Faso and Mauritania take a look at one of the reservoirs at the plant Wednesday.

Delegates from two western African nations, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, inspected the Misono purification plant in Itabashi Ward. It is one of 11 working plants in Tokyo that supply tap water to 13 million people.

The group observed how water from the nearby Arakawa River is purified at the 97,363-sq.-meter site using several conventional treatment methods, including sedimentation, sand filtration and chlorination, as well as advanced techniques involving ozone and activated carbon.

"I found it very pure," said Mohamed Lemine Raghani, managing director in charge of economic research for the Central Bank of Mauritania. He was surprised at how water can be purified at the plant to such a high level that is well suited for drinking.

"People in our country are very reluctant to drink tap water," Raghani said.

"We don't have this advanced technology," said Franck Tapsoba, general director of the Chamber of Commerce in Burkina Faso, adding he would like to introduce the technology in his country.

Securing adequate levels of safe water is one of the most pressing problems in the world and is growing increasingly serious, though the situation varies from country to country.

As many as 800 million people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

In Mauritania, where the Sahara Desert covers two-thirds of the nation, it is too costly to bring water to the capital, Nouakchott, from the nearest river, which is about 100 km away, or to purify the low-quality groundwater, Raghani said.

Tapsoba of Burkina Faso said his country doesn't have enough water purification facilities in small towns.

The field is important to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which has geared up to export its knowhow overseas, setting up on April 11 a subsidiary, Tokyo Waterworks International Co.

Along with its purification plants, a key facility in Tokyo's system is the water supply operation center, which monitors water quantity and pressure 24 hours a day and checks for problems in the supply network.

Also, Tokyo's rate of nonrevenue water — water that is lost, stolen or slips by meters unmeasured and therefore earns no money — is one of the world's lowest, at 4 percent of the total supply, compared with a range of 10 to 40 percent in most countries, said Haruhisa Ota, deputy chief coordinator of the international projects section in the waterworks bureau. The leakage rate in Tokyo has improved more than 20 percentage points over the past 50 years.

Tokyo has also accepted 2,000 trainees from more than 100 countries over the past five years, he said.

On Oct. 2, Tokyo exchanged a memorandum of cooperation with Thailand to reduce nonrevenue water, under which it will help inspect leaks and set up meters to monitor consumption. Tokyo plans to sign a formal contract with a Thai public corporation in charge of waterworks by the end of the year.

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