Wetlands are treasures to be shared with everyone around the world. Wetlands need to be used wisely so that they can be inherited by future generations. There are many wonderful wetlands in Japan, including Nakaikemi Mire, here in Tsuruga City.
As each one of us has his/her unique and irreplaceable characteristics, so each and every wetland is precious and irreplaceable. Today, in the 21st Century, even the smallest wetland should not now be lost simply through ignorance.
However, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is intending to resume the construction of the Isahaya Bay Reclamation Project in spite of the clear Order of Suspension issued by the local court of Saga just two months ago. Changes in the environment of the Ariake and Yatsushiro Inland Seas, both of which connect with Isahaya Bay, are both dramatic and serious. The resulting decline in the local fishing industries has caused widespread harm to the economy of the region. We therefore urgently request that comprehensive evaluation be carried out to assess the impact of opening the sluice-gate in the Isahaya Bay dike for medium- and long-term periods. The evaluation should be capable of making clear the results of the consequent environmental changes. This urgent request reflects and supports the advice given by the Third-Party Committees called for by the Ministry itself.
The large-scale development project that is currently being carried out on the Awase Tidal Flats in Nakagusuku Bay, Okinawa, should also be reviewed. The final use of the development proposal area has not yet been confirmed, yet already there have been extensive trials involving transplanting of precious seagrass beds. Not surprisingly, these trials have been consistently unsuccessful. Besides, there is no place in genuine environmental conservation for attempts to substitute natural seagrass beds with artificially-created ones. Indeed the landfill project as a whole should be thoroughly and objectively re-examined.
Many nature restoration projects that are currently being planned or carried out in various parts of Japan should be re-examined to determine whether the project will result in wise use of the wetland, and whether or not it will result in a decline in the biodiversity of the site.
We wish to emphasise the need for integrated conservation programmes that cover the entire area of any bay that is faced with development proposals. Such development proposals already exist for Wajiro Tidal Flats, a temporary wetland on the Artificial Island, and Imazu Tidal Flats, all in Hakata Bay, Fukuoka Prefecture, and Sanbanze and Banzu Tidal Flats in Tokyo Bay. The Estuary of the Yoshino River in Shikoku Island is a tidal flat that forms part of the East Asian/Australasian Shorebird Site Network, but it faces a variety of planned or ongoing projects. These include a Highway, and a large bridge that will form part of the ring-road for Tokushima City. Both of these developments will result in the kind of serious habitat fragmentation that should never be approved.
Fujimae Tidal Flats is a designated Ramsar Site, but suffers from poorly-oxygenated water. This is also a problem in other parts of the bay. It is vital that a programme of integrated environmental improvement is developed for the whole region of Ise and Mikawa Bays, based on the catchments and associated marine areas of these two bays. This whole catchment approach should also be applied to Osaka Bay and the Seto Inland Sea, embracing the catchments of all the rivers that flow into these two water bodies.
Some wetlands, such as peatlands, are very fragile but tend to be destroyed largely as a result of ignorance because neither their extreme sensitivity nor their conservation value are generally recognised. However, here at Nakaikemi, a peatland with a history of more than 100,000 years has been saved for future generations. We applaud the wise decision of the Osaka Gas Company and the Mayor of Tsuruga City in helping to pave the way for Nakaikemi Mire to be designated as a Wetland Of International Importance as soon as possible.
The United Kingdom has a list of more than 150 Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance, but so far Japan has only 13 such sites. The total area of these designated sites in Japan is only 1/10th of the area designated in the UK. The Japanese Ministry of the Environment has begun a process to increase the number of designated sites to more than 22 sites. We, the participants of this Symposium, welcome this process, and believe that it will be important to incorporate a range factors and points of view into the criteria for selection, including climate regions, biogeography, catchment areas, and associated ground. We earnestly hope that as many wetlands as possible will be designated as Ramsar Sites, and thus, through their wise use, be inherited by future generations.
We have agreed the statement above as being shared by the participants of the International Wetland Symposium 2004 in Tsuruga.
Participants, International Wetland Symposium