More protection sought for Japan’s flora, fauna

A coalition of 44 groups calling for the preservation of Japan’s wildlife is pushing for legislation to formalize a comprehensive government policy to protect all kinds of wild flora and fauna, members of the groups said Saturday.

The groups are close to concluding talks with the House of Representatives Legislative Bureau on a draft bill. They hope to have it submitted to the Lower House in mid-May under the sponsorship of lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties.

Japan’s wildlife protection policy is currently covered by more than 10 different laws, such as those for animals and national parks. As a result, some areas are left neglected due to a lack of coordination among different sectors of the bureaucracy.

The groups, including the Tokyo-based Nature Conservation Society of Japan, are seeking to propose an overall basic law that would cover all living things in nature, including fungi. It would also correct the inadequacies surrounding current laws, the members said.

The proposed legislation, made up of 23 items, envisions measures dealing with current conditions and is thus expected to be a turning point for Japan’s wildlife protection policy, if it is passed.

It calls for a system that could conduct strategic environmental assessments of projects involving changes in land or water surface features during the planning stages, as opposed to just prior to the start of such projects.

The bill describes wildlife protection through preservation of natural habitats as its basic principle. It also urges consideration of a plan under which citizens will be able to file objections against development projects that pose threats to wildlife.

Such developers would be held accountable for preserving construction areas.

It calls on the state and prefectural governments to come up with plans to scientifically and comprehensively protect wild fauna and flora and to establish funds to implement the plans. Authorities would also be required to devise methods in which animals used for experiments or destroyed because they pose a hazard to humans experience minimal suffering.

In terms of monitoring the implementation of the stipulations, the bill urges the central and local governments to have experts assigned to check on the measures.

A senior Environment Ministry official said the moves for the introduction of the bill are praiseworthy but also pointed to a need for adjustments in relation to damages inflicted on agriculture, forestry and fisheries by wild animals.