Lessons of an Eco-Town
KAWASAKI, Japan — In 1997, after more than three decades of environmental decline, Kawasaki City finally drew up a plan to create a town where the environment and industry would coexist in harmony. The city of 1.5 million residents is just south of Tokyo.
It was an ambitious undertaking that required cooperative action from industries and citizens for the improvement of the environment. Part of the shared roles is for local companies to invest in new ideas and technological innovation for pollution control and for citizens to take action to fight pollution.
Crew of Kawasaki City waste management agency on a scheduled day to pick up curbside segregated garbage for the city’s recycling facility.
“Local companies made investments for pollution control and developed technological knowhow. As for the citizens, they took zero actions against pollution and enhanced their awareness of environmental conservation,” said Yuki Tsuji of Kawasaki City’s economic and labor affairs bureau, in a presentation to a group of journalists from the Pacific and Caribbean. “And also, Kawasaki City took pollution control measures by signing pollution control agreements with local industries,” he added.
During the 1960’s to the early 1970’s, heavy industries that propagated on Kawasaki’s waterfront helped fuel Japan’s rapid economic growth. However, accelerated growth triggered serious environmental deterioration, and Kawasaki City faced the problem of industrial pollution.
But the sharing of roles by industry and citizens has made the city a model for overcoming environmental degradation.
“The current Kawasaki City waterfront area has overcome the industrial pollution and we have got back the blue skies and ocean,” Mr. Tsuji said. He added that through these efforts, Kawasaki “has accumulated environmental technologies and know-how.”
At its base, Kawasaki’s move to create an advanced environmentally harmonized town was intended to promote environmental industries using locally accumulated technologies, and to encourage local companies to adopt resource-recycling in their production activities as much as possible. Now, industrial waste and by-products are effectively reused as raw materials.
Among the highlights of the cooperative action is the waste management system — a full supply chain that starts with segregated curbside garbage collection, then moves on to a recycling plant and, finally, a finished product.
At the Kawasaki Zero Emissions Industrial Park, Corelex San-Ei produces 1.3 million rolls of toilet paper a day using wastepaper as raw materials. Sources for these raw materials include 40 tons of wastepaper collected from the city neighborhoods and compressed daily at the Ukishima Waste Treatment Center. Corelex buys the compressed wastepaper at 8 yen per kilogram (about 7 US cents).
Kawasaki City’s experience could offer important lessons for Palau as the island goes through rapid tourism industry related developments. The current trend of reclaiming natural mangrove forests and reef areas in the name of economic development continue, from the main town of Koror to the village of Ngetkib, Airai across the channel.
Mangroves and the reef flats are vital for the livelihood of the people — from the tourism industry that contributes to 75% of Palau’s gross domestic product, down to men and women who rely on the ocean for subsistence. With a small-scale economy, and relying on technological expertise from outside, the continued destruction of Palau’s natural environment will reach a point of no return if nothing is done.
An eco-town friendly approach, where citizens, industry and the government share roles and take cooperative action — an initiative similar to Kawasaki City’s — may offer solutions for Palau’s sustainable development.
( Ongerung Kambes Kesolei is in Japan participating in the 2018 Pacific-Caribbean Journalists Program with senior journalists from Fiji, American Samoa, Trinidad & Tobago, and St. Vincent & The Grenadines.)