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Three prefectures’ trash flowing down to isle

Chunichi Shimbun

Discarded trash and other debris is being carried by rivers running through Aichi, Gifu and Mie prefectures and washing ashore on Toshi Island in Ise Bay, an Environment Ministry study found.

The island, located just off Toba, a key fishing and tourism port, is the largest in Mie Prefecture.

The ministry said Mie and the other two prefectures need to work together to rectify the problem.

Garbage ranging from fishing equipment to plastic waste has drifted ashore on Toshi Island’s Nasa Beach near Momotori port, affecting local industries.

Following periods of heavy rain, stretches of the beach and the port area are often filled with driftwood and discarded trash, some with identifying marks showing they came from far inland.

The ministry studied the problem from 2007 to 2009 and concluded that 64 tons of waste reaches the island each year.

Some of the trash, including plastic and disposable lighters, bear the names of establishments located near rivers that flow through the three prefectures into Ise Bay, the ministry found.

The ministry set 18 plastic bottles adrift in six Mie rivers and tracked them with GPS, later finding 10 of them in Ise Bay, including six that washed ashore on Toshi Island.

During a one-year study in 2009, Mie officials gauged the volume of drifting rubbish per unit area in 14 locations and found that the concentration that converged on Nasa Beach was 27 times greater than that of the other 13 locations.

Mie Prefecture is currently preparing a regional plan to reduce the amount of seaborne litter, according to a 2009 law to process marine garbage.

As part of the plan, Mie is asking neighboring prefectures to adopt measures to curb the excessive trash flowing down rivers.

“We really want more people to understand what is happening to the island,” said a Mie prefectural official working in the division in charge of water quality improvement.

Mie Gov. Eikei Suzuki is set to meet with the Aichi and Gifu governors, as well as the mayor of Nagoya, to solicit their cooperation.

Whether they will work together remains to be seen. Asked about the issue, Aichi and Gifu officials only remarked that they are aware of the island’s situation and offered vague pledges to try to reduce the amount of garbage.

Susumu Takayama, a professor at the graduate school of Mie University and a specialist on regional ecosystem management who cooperated with the ministry study, stressed the need for the prefectures to work together.

“Toshi Island should serve as a symbol for us to think about the waste problems in the whole Ise Bay area,” he said. “I hope to see both the central and prefectural governments work together beyond vertically divided administrative functions and further partner with the private sector to address this issue over the long haul.”

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Jan. 10.