Japan has a rather unique way of dealing with its green cover. While Tokyo has set a target of planting one million trees by the end of 2015 to reduce greenhouse gases, elsewhere in the country the local governments are encouraging felling of its trees to save the forests and to boost the dying wood industry!

Japan’s local governments are promoting felling of trees from the forests created under the afforestation projects 50 years when Japan lost much of its forest cover during urbanisation. The densely planted trees are now threatening the other trees within the forest due to the shortage of space required for natural growth and destruction and damage to normal trees due to the natural logging process.

Tokyo once had a vast open area with waterfront space and greenery that lost with the advancement of urbanisation during the period of high economic growth. Much of it was also lost during the Olympic Games in the 1960s.

Given that high urbanisation resulted in concretisation and increased the pollution levels in the city, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) has been implementing a policy to make the city an “Ideal Tokyo” in 10 years as envisioned by the decade-long Project for Green Tokyo, launched in 2006 with some amendments in 2007. The project envisages “regenerating Tokyo into a beautiful city surrounded by a corridor of water and greenery.

To act as a carbon sink for absorbing the greenhouse gases, the number of roadside trees in Tokyo at the end of 2005 fiscal was 4,80,000 that will be increased to 7,00,000 by the end of 2010 and eventually to one million by 2015. The trees of diverse species will be planted with the construction of new roads, removing utility poles and renovation of existing roads to make Tokyo a more liveable city. Compulsory green cover in every new development project, including a building, is mandated under law.

But in the Kyoto Prefecture, Kitakwada High School runs a course in forest management an important aspect of which is to promote the use of local wood for domestic use like building houses, construction of log house and making furniture. At present, 80 per cent of Japan’s demand for wood is met with by the imported wood since the local wood is expensive and since the availability is always an issue for builders.

Now, the local government is giving subsidy to developers for using local cedar wood. The use of local wood has been included in the climate change reduction plans as it is said that one cubic metre of wood imported results in carbon emission equivalent to 150 kg due to the use of fuel in transportation.

In the Yamanashi Prefecture that has its own Green New Deal Plan for preventing global warming, a low carbon society is envisaged with “full use of its rich natural environment and wide use of clean energy including the wood biomass, solar energy and water resources”.

Wood biomass (pellet) boilers are used for heating water and air by utilising wood chips produced in the process by the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project, a non-profit organisation. Carbon emission equivalent to 330 tonnes per year will be prevented annually by using the pellets that also helps in thinning the forests.

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