Infrastructure Maintenance Grand Award for Coastal Forest Restoration Project
On July 24, the awarding ceremony for the first “Infrastructure Maintenance Grand Award” was held at the auditorium of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) in Tokyo with the presence of Mr. Keiichi Ishii, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and 5 Parliamentary Secretaries for Public Management, Home Affairs, and Post and Telecommunications; Education Culture, Science and Sports; Health, Labor and Welfare; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and Defense. The event was attended by about 300 persons including representatives from the 28 Award winning organizations and groups, government officials and media.
Ms. Etsuko Nakano, President of OISCA Japan, and Mr. Eiji Suzuki, President of the Association for Restoration of Coastal Forest in Natori City, a group comprising disaster-hit local farmers, jointly received a certificate of commendation for the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Award. The OISCA Project has been highly appreciated for carrying out comprehensive approach to the coastal forest restoration from seedling raising, planting and up to maintenance, in cooperation with the government and the industry and also with active participation of citizens.
The Infrastructure Maintenance Grad Award system was newly established in 2016 by the 6 Ministries. It is aimed at commending public and private organizations and groups who have demonstrated outstanding approaches and technological development concerning the maintenance of infrastructure with a view to promoting activities by businesses, organizations and researchers involved in infrastructure maintenance, revitalizing the maintenance industry and also widely spreading the concept of infrastructure maintenance.
For the first Grand Award, there were a total of 248 applications from local government organizations, public and private corporations, educational institutions, NGOs and NPOs all over the country. They covered a wide range of fields including transport, communications, water work, agricultural, forestry and fishery projects, educational and defense facilities. The Award Selection Committee composed of 14 eminent scholars chaired by Mr. Takashi Onishi, President of Toyohashi University of Technology, and President of the Science Council of Japan, screened the applications and selected the 28 awardees including OISCA. The OISCA Project was bestowed the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Award along with two other organizations.
Following the awarding ceremony, the representatives from the 11 corporations and organizations which were conferred the Minister’s Award, delivered presentations on their respective projects. Representing the OISCA group, Mr. Eiji Suzuki, President of the Association for Restoration of Coastal Forests in Natori City, expressed his deep appreciation for the prestigious Award. Citing his still fresh personal experience of dramatic survival in a nick of time from the fast-approaching tidal waves, he emphasized the great importance of coastal forest. He mentioned that he is grateful to the remaining pine trees firmly rooted on the hill located between his badly damaged house and the seashore, the speed of the tsunami was delayed by about 30 seconds, thus saving his life. He strongly affirmed that it is the duty of the local residents to restore the devastated coastal forest in cooperation with OISCA and leave it to the future generations as a social infrastructure for protecting against wind, tidal waves and flying sands.
After his presentations, a couple of questions followed on the sources of the project budget, post 2020 activities and the applicability of OISCA formula to other fields. Mr. Toshimichi Yoshida, Director for the Coastal Forest Restoration Project, replied to the questions. He said that the project has been financed entirely through contributions from private corporations and organizations and individual donors; that the project would not end in just planting trees by 2020, but would require money and manpower for the maintenance of the planted site in the years after 2020; and that the OISCA formula would be able to be applied to other fields as well because OISCA has acquired rich experiences for over 50 years in implementing various projects in the Asia-Pacific Region.
So far, a total of 260,000 seedlings of black pine and other tree species have been planted over 50 hectares of land, about 70% of the plantable area. The survival rate of seedlings has reached as high as 99.8% this year.
Another salient feature of the Project is that it is not only restoring the destroyed seashore forest, but also recovering the biodiversity of the area lost in the tsunami. According to the surveys conducted from 2015 to 2017 by the Tohoku Regional Forest Office of the Forestry Agency, 412 species of vegetation, 498 species of insects and 54 species of birds have been recognized in the area. In addition, a variety of organisms such as amphibian, reptiles, fishes, crustacean and mammals were identified.