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Pollution disappears from Yokkaichi city

By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
January 15, 2016

Yokkaichi city in Japan now enjoys clean air, free from pollution.

Yokkaichi city in Mie prefecture, Japan has solved the heavy amount of pollution the city suffered from for over half a century after adopting a wide range of pollution prevention measures.

Journalists from Asean countries recently went to visit the pollution museum in Yokkaichi, to see for themselves and listen to explanations of how the city was able to make its air and environment clean.

The pollution problems started about 60 years ago, with air and water contamination building up in Yokkaichi as well as most other industrial cities in Japan like Kawasaki, Chiba and Osaka.

Deputy Director of the Yokkaichi Municipal Museum, Mr Okada Yoshihiro, said that at the time the city began to experience what is now called the Yokkaichi pollution problem.

It was a period of rapid economic developm ent and the city offered the petrochemical industry a development policy which led to the decision to build a petrochemical facility on the No. 2 naval fuel storage site in 1965.

These petrochemical factories not only supported the economy of the city, but also played an important role in the economic development of Japan itself.

Based on a mus eum report, from 1966 to 1970 about 2,000 people in the city were found to be suffering from serious pollution problems with another 190,000 people also being entitled to relief provided to pollution suffers across the country.

Most victims of pollution end up staying in hospital for long periods, suffering eye and lung problems.

In order to develop and introduce pollution prevention measures, the government of Mie prefecture established the Yokkaichi Area Pollution plan with different prevention and control measures being implemented in eight stages which ended in 2010.

During this time the local government installed new infrastructure such as an improved public sewage treatment system and the establishment of green areas, while businesses developed pollution prevention machinery such as desulphurisation equipment. Efforts were steadily being made to improve the environment with the vast sum of 983.7 billion yen (approximately US$8.2 billion) being invested by both the public and private sectors combined.

By taking these steps, air pollution has never returned to the area and Yokkaichi city is now striving to become an environmentally advanced city which is able to spread the word of its success in pollution control to the rest of the country and overseas as well.

Mr Sohea Soy of Daum Ampil News in Cambodia told his colleagues while at the museum that the preventative measures taken by Yokkaichi city were very interesting to him and he would publish this information for the people in his country.

“We will have to campaign using this information because the Cambodian people already recognise the need to reduce pollution,” he said.

The Asean journalists were the first group to officially visit the pollution museum in Mie prefecture and next year Japan will convene the G7 Summit in the area.

*Originally published on Vientiane Times on September 3, 2015

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