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Japanese model cities support the greening of Asian cities

Recently, an article about Kitakyushu City’s efforts was introduced on the UN’s environmental website.

In the 1960s, Kitakyushu City was at the center of the heavy industry that supported Japan during the high growth period. Dokai Bay, into which untreated wastewater from the plant flowed directly, was called the “Dead Sea,” and soot, smoke, and chemical substances flowed out into the air.

In 1950, when the pollution began to cause damage to human health, the Kitakyushu City Tobata Ward Women’s Association (Tobata Women’s Association Council) stood up to protect the health of the children. Under the catchphrase “I want a blue sky,” the women’s association conducted its own surveys of air pollution and visited factories to request improvements from the city and companies. In response, the city and companies began to work with women’s associations and research institutions to find solutions to pollution. In the 1990s, similar cooperation was provided to combat automobile exhaust and household waste.

These efforts paid off, and Kitakyushu, an industrial wasteland, recovered its fish bay and beautiful blue skies—eventually being called the “Miracle Town.” In 1997, the city of Kawasaki in the Kanagawa Prefecture, the Gifu prefectural government, and the city of Iida in Nagano Prefecture jointly became the first municipality in Japan to obtain approval to use the “Eco-Town” designation from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. It has now become a model case for eco-towns, with 26 local governments nationwide having been approved.

Kitakyushu City’s efforts have been well received overseas. In 1990, it received the “Global 500 Award” from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In 2011, it was selected as a “Green Growth Model Cities” by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Recently, Kitakyushu City was even selected as a pilot city or region for promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Since 2010, Kitakyushu has implemented nearly 200 environmentally-friendly projects in 78 cities of 16 different countries. On August 2, 2019, the city and UNEP jointly held a press conference and announced the strengthening of cooperation on waste management to resolve plastic pollution in Southeast Asia. Deschen Zelin of the UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, said, “Kitakyushu’s expertise in waste management is a valuable asset in its efforts to eradicate plastic pollution.” Kitakyushu Mayor Kenji Kitahashi commented, “We want to share the lessons we’ve learned over the years with many cities and regions.”

2019.10.03