In order to work on the revival of pollution-debilitated areas, Aozora pursues efforts including studies, research, and proposals, and support for community-development activities. We are in particular carrying out many activities from our base in Osaka’s Nishiyodogawa area.
Our first effort consisted of “Community Development Exploration Parties” to have people acquaint themselves with the current state of the Nishiyodogawa area, and “Interviews on Nishiyodogawa’s Past and Residents’ Past Experiences” to find out how the environment has changed over the past 50-odd years based on the memories of local people.
In this manner we talked with many people about what kind of a local environment we should have, which gave us an idea of what components of the environment should be improved, what should be preserved and fostered, and what should be recovered and created.
Participants in “Community Development Exploration Parties” learn from observing their communities
We are also conducting studies and research to gradually build a compre-hensive plan for area redevelopment.
This includes abatement of pollution such as motor vehicle pollution and soil contamination, improvement of residential environments in mixed residential/in-dustrial zones, planting trees and other vegetation, and redeveloping shorelines in coastal zones. Neighborhood associations and industrial organizations have helped with our questionnaires. And last winter we obtained the cooperation of Kobe Steel, Ltd.’s Takasago Plant in implementing a model project for the promotion of commuting to work by bicycle.
Aozora endeavors to make this information publicly available by producing illustrated maps and pamphlets, and by holding exhibits, symposia, and other events.
Overcoming Motor Vehicle Pollution
Located in the center of the Hanshin industrial zone,Nishi-yodogawa is crisscrossed by major thoroughfares and has serious pollution such as the exhaust from large trucks. In the Nishi-yodogawa Pollution Lawsuits the Osaka District Court in July 1995 handed down a decision which for the first time recognized that roadside residents suffer health damage, ordered the national government and Hanshin Expressway Public Corporation (HEPC) to pay compensation for damages.
Under commissions from pollution victims’ associations, Aozora promoted the activities of research groups whose members included experts, and compiled the results in the form of proposals. Even the media applaud such activities for having opened the way to a court-mediated settlement in July 1998.
Pursuant to the settlement provisions, a liaison committee has been established between the government/HEPC and the plaintiffs, and discussions about remedial measures are under way. The Environ- ment Agency has initiated a full-blown study on the Nishiyodogawa area. Aozora is working on policy proposals that make the most of the new situation.
２、The Pollution Experience
Japan endured appalling harm from pollution during its high economic growth phase, and we should use the lessons learned from that experience in order to better society. That makes it necessary to set up a system for preserving and using documentation of that pollution damage.
With the cooperation of specialists in modern and contemporary history, Aozora is working on the collection, preservation, and recording of information on area people and pollution victims, which is easily scattered. As part of that effort, it has undertaken a movement to preserve blast furnaces as the industrial heritage of the Nishiyodogawa area.
Aozora is also making efforts to pass on the experiences and lessons of pollution damage and remedial measures to the next generation and to developing countries. With the cooperation of the National Liaison Council for Pollution Victims Organizations, Aozora has been searching out pollution victims’ organizations in Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, and other countries, and conducting exchanges with environmental NGOs.
People from abroad access the Aozora Foundation website, whose information on the experience of pollution damage is being used in formal education. The website also has pages in which pollution victims relate their experiences, and “Nishiyodogawa Time Travel” pages that tell about Nishiyodogawa and its residents’ experiences long ago.
Aozora works with specialists and pollution victims’ organizations around the country to preserve documentation on pollution victims. We propose that public institutions should preserve and keep records of information, and make arrangements for research, and we try to influence individuals and organizations for that purpose.
We also provide for meetings among the nationally spreading initiatives to rejuvenate pollution-damaged areas so they can learn from one another.
Our first such meeting, held in May 1999, had participants associated with the following initiatives: Niigata Minamata disease, Kawasaki, Yokkaichi, Nishiyodogawa, Toyono, Amagasaki, Kurashiki, and Kumamoto Minamata disease. We are cooperating with activities to redevelop pollution-devastated areas in Kurashiki (Mizushima) and Amagasaki by working together on proposal development, studies, and research.
3,Environmental Learning and Health
Aozora considers environmental learning projects important for imparting the pollution experience to others, and also for finding other people with whom to pursue community revitalization activities.
For this same reason we carry out community studies such as interviews and Exploration Parties with residents and students in a “participatory” manner. We also made a community historical gallery with exhibits on earthquakes, past appearance, biota, industry, and other features of Nishiyodogawa.
The Nishiyodo Nature and Culture College, opened in April 1998, aims to prepare people to carry on community development. Senior citizens, housewives, and many other people attended lectures, and that autumn the Nishiyodo Acorn Festival was a success with the participation of 300 people including children.
People who finished the course established the Nishiyodo Nature and Culture Association, which now serves as the nucleus that runs the college.
Aozora is also commissioned by the Japan Environment Corporation (JEC) to run the Western Japan Branch of the Citizens College for Global Environment, where we broaden our interaction with other environmental NGOs through lecture courses that include international cooperation, environmental issues, and administering NGO organizations.
Our activities for children consist in running the Junior Eco-Club with community parents and childcare specialists, and conducting activities such as regular observations on the Yagura seacoast. Such observation activities are conducted with the cooperation of the Nishiyodo Community and Nature Club (Mr. Toshio Kitamoto and others) and specialists.
Improving Pollution Victims’ Health and Making Their Lives Worthwhile
At the Aozora Foundation we have given much consider- ation to the possibilities of incorporating into community re- development activities the provision of improved health and worthwhile lives to people with pollution-induced illnesses.
After a two-year demonstration test conducted with the cooperation of Osaka Prefectural Habikino Hospital, in April 1999 we borrowed children’s play areas in Nishiyodogawa’s Fuku district through the kindness of neighborhood associa- tions, where pollution illness patients, private practitioners,volunteers, and others began making community gardens.
It is our hope that by having people come together they will create places affording rest both mentally and physica- lly, and that this practice will become more widespread as a new environmental health project.
At regular meetings of the group Fuku Gardens, members enjoy listening to private practitioners talk about keeping healthy, and have fun gardening with horticultural therapists and others.
4,Organization and Operation of the Aozora Foundation
In addition to the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees that public service corporations must have,Aozora has a Review Board, which serves as an advisory body for thedirector, and project steering committees.
The foundation is thereforeorganized in a manner that manifests a broad array of activities
brining together people including citizen activists and experts from many disciplines, as well as a style of activity that incorporates citizen participation.
Pursuant to a Board of Directors decision, in FY1997 Aozora established a Mid- and Long-Term Planning Committee, and a Fiscal Planning Committee. The plans they propose serve as the basis for each fiscal year’s project plans and financial management.
Aozora strives for sound and stable fiscal operations that make sparing, effective use of the assets contributed by pollution victims. Our office makes efforts to become accomplished in management, such as by holding general management meetings each quarter for the purpose of effectively pursuing both commissioned tasks and community activities.
Horticultural therapy and community gardens, preservation of pollution-related information and documents, and other activities depend on the support of many volunteers including citizens, experts, and people involved in the community. There are also many university students writing their theses in connection with foundation studies and research. In FY1998 Aozora began accepting student interns to have them experience, for example, the operation of a foundation. Interns participated in the planning and preparations for the River Ascension Exploratory Party and the Nishiyodogawa Industry Exhibit.
Supporting members receive themagazine Libella and the newsletter Aozora Bulletin each month, and an annual report each year. Additionally documents, pamphlets, research re-ports, and other items are made available to the public.
Improving Pollution Victims’ Health and Making Their Lives Worthwhile
Becoming a Supporting Member of the Aozora Foundation
Aozora’s activities are supported by dues, contributions, and volunteers. Contributions and supporting member dues constitute a valuable fiscal resource for conducting autonomous and original activities. It is our hope that that many people will consider becoming members.
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