Archive for the 'Urban Environmental Management' Category
Debris clearance in areas affected by the Japan disaster of 11 MArch 2011

About 25 million tons of debris need to be
cleared from three prefectures (Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate prefectures) affected
by the March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami. This is equal to almost 10 years of
everyday garbage collected by them.
The amount is about 1.7 times the debris seen in the 1996 Great Hanshin Earthquake. Iwate Prefecture alone will need some 3 million sq.
meters of land to temporarily store a total of 6 million tons of debris
scattered around the prefecture, but has been able to secure only 40
percent of the land needed so far.

Clearing the debris is a precondition for
people to return to their homes and start reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Four months after the disaster, only 20 to 30% of the debris has been cleared,
and processing the debris in temporary dump sites is yet to begin.  It is expected that the process of clearance alone will take three to four years to complete.

 But local governments are faced with a
multitude of problems:

  • Lack of flat land to temporarily store the
    debris before it is processed and reused or landfilled. This includes
    resistance from local residents near potential temporary sites.  
  • High cost of clearing the debris, including
    costs of equipment and vehicles.
  • Mixed debris that is difficult to sort out
    wood and other types of debris, making reuse difficult (for example, using pelletized
    wood as a fuel for factory furnaces).
  • Problems of jurisdiction of waste – for example,
    disposing of cars and vehicles falls under a different agency, compared to
    debris which is the responsibility of local governments.
  • Debris is currently mixed up with a number
    of marine and other dead animals, making its clearance more difficult.
  • Small capacities of local waste disposal
    companies to handle the large volume of debris
  • Conflicts between local, prefectural and
    national governments related to jurisdiction, cost-sharing and other issues.
  • Radioactive debris, contaminated sil and other materials near the crippled nuclear plant requires special handling, which will take longer and is more expensive. Other toxic and hazardous materials such as asbestos, dioxins and PCBs pose additional problems of their own.
  • Obtaining permission from property owners before damaged buildings are destroyed.

 These and other issues are being studied by GDRC and a full report will be produced very soon.


Private Sector Response to the Japan Disaster of March 11, 2011

The impact of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami has been devastating, with humanitarian needs still not fully met.

Besides the human toll, the impact of the disaster on the private sector has also been huge. Damaged factories, stockpiles destroyed, supply chains disrupted, and production curtailed due to power cuts. This are familiar scenarios that have been reported widely in the mass media.

But how has the private sector actually responded? The desire of the business sector to get back on its feet has been very strong – both within the sector itself, and also with the support incentives being provided by local and national governments and financial institutions.

What is further interesting is how the disaster has provided an opportunity for innovative solutions and technologies to be developed and implemented not only as a disaster preparedness issue, but also as a means to reduce resource consumption, especially energy-related (electricity, gas, water etc.).

Below is a compilation of some of the innovative solutions being developed by the private sector as a direct result of the 3/11 disaster:

1. Sharp Corp. and Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery Co. produced a disaster-relief photovoltaic (PV) system and shipped their first cargo of the products to earthquake and tsunami disaster-stricken areas on March 31, 2011. This product is a stand-alone PV system combining Sharp solar cells with Shin-Kobe storage batteries and an alternating current (AC) power strip. With the electricity generated by the system, the people suffering in the areas can charge their cell phones, watch TV programs, and light up light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

2. Panasonic Corporation, a leading Japanese electronics manufacturer, announced on March 29, 2011, that it would donate one unit of its Life Innovation Container for victims of the powerful earthquake that hit the northeastern part of Japan on March 11, 2011. The Life Innovation Container — a transportable unit equipped with solar modules, power storage batteries, and a power control unit — was originally developed to supply electric power to areas with no electricity in Africa and other developing nations. It will be installed to support a local disaster task force at the Bay Side Arena in Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, by providing power for communication facilities and equipment in the quake-hit area.

3. Three major Japanese manufacturers, Hitachi, Ltd., Mitsubishi ElectricCorp., and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., have reached a basic agreement on the consolidation of their hydroelectric systems businesses, the companies announced on March 30, 2011. In the coming years, hydroelectric power generation is expected to attract continuous demand as a clean renewable energy contributing toward the realization of a low-carbon society. The three companies reached a common recognition that the most effective means to strengthen and expand related business would be to pool their respective operating resources and engage jointly in hydroelectric power generation system operations.

4. About 20 organizations, including the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP), a non-profit organization that conducts research and provides recommendations on energy policies, launched a disaster relief project utilizing natural energy on April 4, 2011. The project involves providing electricity by installing solar panels in evacuation centers, public facilities and temporary housing. At the same time, it involves providing hot water by installing solar water heaters and providing a bathing facility service that uses wood boilers, particularly in areas where infrastructure is underdeveloped.

5. U’s Corp., a used cooking oil recycling company in Japan, delivered relief supplies from Taiwan on April 2, 2011 by a Vegetable Diesel Fuel (VDF)-driven truck to Kesennuma City Hospital in the area struck by the disaster on March 11, 2011. The company carried out this project as part of its “Tokyo Oil Field Project 2017,” cooperating with Side By Side International, a non-profitable organization, which provides relief supplies and mental support to people in difficult situations including poverty and natural disasters.

6. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. announced on March 17, 2011, that it will donate i-MiEV electric vehicles and Triton four-wheel-drive pickup trucks for use in disaster relief operations in areas afflicted by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The i-MiEV and Triton were selected as disaster relief vehicles to be used in the afflicted areas where gasoline supply is limited. The selection was based on the response to growing demand for use of electric vehicles that do not require the construction of special facilities, simple needing an electricity supply, and for vehicles with high power on rough roads and good carrying capacity. The company’s first shipment of 30 i-MiEVs was sent on March 18, and the number of disaster relief vehicles will be increased to meet the needs of afflicted areas in the future.

There are many such examples (the six examples above were collected by Japan for Sustainability, an NPO based in Tokyo).

UN refers to cities as key governmental stakeholders supporting global climate action

ICLEI Press Release

8 December 2010, CANCUN/MEXICO – For the first
time, the crucial role of local governments in fighting climate change
has been recognized officially at the UN climate talks in Cancun (COP16).
The local government delegation has achieved a tremendous success, with
cities and local governments now being recognized by states as ‘governmental

Mayor of Mexico city and holder of the Mayor
of the Year 2010 title, Marcelo Ebrard, said that the reference to local
governments as governmental stakeholders finally gives recognition to cities
as key actors in the fight to tackle climate change. The UN climate talks
have been dominated by national interests for decades. The unprecedented
number of participants and media interest in Copenhagen last year underlined
that the role of local and sub-national government in implementing climate
actions would have to be recognized and given a stronger position opposite
national interests.

By 2050 two thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities,
while 75 percent of emissions come from urban areas. Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard,
Mayor for the Environment of Copenhagen, Denmark, highlighted that local
governments are already ahead of the game when compared to national governments,
as they provide local solutions to the global climate challenge. Local
governments have to deal with the problem as it’s on their door step –
whether there is a global agreement between national governments or not.

Just days after 142 cities launched the Mexico City Pact and committed
to reporting their climate action, commitments and performance through
the carbonn Cities Climate Registry (cCCR), this latest triumph of being
recognized officially as “governmental stakeholders”, marks an important
step in enabling cities to keep delivering real climate change action.
Speaking at the ICLEI side event, Martha Delgado, Environment Secretary
of Mexico City and ICLEI Vice President, and ICLEI President and Vancouver
Councillor, David Cadman, both urged more cities to sign up to the Mexico
Pact and report their emission and actions. Thus allowing the impact they
are making to be measurable.

Ronan Dantec, Vice Mayor of Nantes and Climate Spokesperson of UCLG, said
it is a question of credibility of the climate talks to recognize cities
as the most important capacity to reduce carbon emission in a short time.
Speaking passionately about the hard work of cities to influence the climate
negotiations, he pointed out that five words in the text of COP16 can be
the key to unlocking the full financial capacity needed for cities to keep
acting. Speaking of concrete examples, Patrick Hays Mayor of North Little
Rock, USA, mentioned his cities hydro electric plant, which helped a large
industrial vehicle company becoming more energy efficient, enhancing its
economic viability and creating 600 new jobs – all while protecting the
environment people are living in.

The governor of Quintana Roo, Mexico, Félix González Canto, spoke about
how his state is implementing local solutions to climate change for example
by introducing a biogas plant where an open land fill had been before.
Cathy Oke, Councillor of Melbourne, Australia, which aims to be a zero
carbon emissions city by 2020, urged the UNFCCC to work closely with local
authorities to support frameworks that lead to better implementation of
clean development mechanisms on a local level, but have a significant global

COP16 President Espinosa clearly expressed her strong support for the climate
work being carried out by cities and local governments worldwide, and is
willing to find a permanent platform for dialogue with LGs in the process
of the COPs.

– end of ICLEI press release –

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. ICLEI is a world association of local governments and municipal organizations
that have made a commitment to sustainable development.

Shanghai Expo 2010 Declaration – “Better City – Better Life”

The “Shanghai Declaration” was released at the Summit Forum on the last day of the Shanghai Expo 2010 “Better City – Better Life”. Over 6 months a total of 73 million visitors came to the 5.28 square kilometer Expo park.

Expos have changed their meaning over time, and this time it was an ‘Urban’ Expo. There was an urban best practices area with 47 urban best practices cases. Six official forums were held and literally hundreds of conferences and exhibitions within the Expo and on the sidelines in Shanghai and in China on themes related to the fields of urban planning and urban design.

The official declaration is meant to be a public and global document. Its content comes to no surprise to us, yet we should have a reason to celebrate the increased global public interest in the quality of our cities and environments.

Expo website:

Food waste in Japan

The Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) of Japan has estimated that about 23 million tons of food was wasted in 2007. This is worth almost JPY 11 trillion (approximately USD 110 billion), which is the monetary equivalent of Japan’s annual agricultural output. Moreover, it cost JPY 2 trillion to process that waste.

In Tokyo alone, food accounts for 30 percent of all household waste. That’s about 6,000 tons a day, which is enough to keep 4.5 million people alive for a day. As a whole, 40 percent of food ends up in the garbage.

Consider the above in light of the paradoxical fact that more than 60 percent of food in Japan is imported.

Global Cities Ranking

The current century has the dubious distinction of being an ‘urban century’. More than half the population of the world live in cities; cities are growing much faster than national population growth rates; and most of the ‘global’ problems that we are facing have their starting points and precedences in very urban settings.

Going beyond size alone, or contribution to GDP, the Global Cities Ranking looks at how much a city influences what goes on away from its boundaries – markets, cultures, innovation etc. It covered a city’s business activity, human capital, and information exchange to its cultural experience and political engagement. The 2010 Global Cities Index was created as a collaboration between Foreign Policy, management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

See the full ranking and further details at:

Ten Most Important Tourism Issues

Over the last several years, Prof. David Edgell of East Carolina University has been sharing his list of “Ten Most Important Tourism Issues”.

Presented as simple ‘headlines,’ his list for 2011 makes interesting reading, with sustainability being an underlying theme that runs through all the items. Disasters and conflicts, internet and communication technologies, and policy and planning tools also make the list.

A specific geographic region has also been singled out – East Asia and Pacific Region – as a destination, as well as a source of tourists.

Here is the list:

  1. Repercussions from the global economic slowdown on tourism  
  2. Continuous concern for safety and security with respect to tourism
  3. Significance of sustainability in the development and management of tourism
  4. Effect on tourism from natural and man-made disasters
  5. Growth in the use of electronic and other technologies in tourism
  6. Impact on tourism with the introduction of new destinations
  7. Importance of fuel costs on tourism
  8. Influence of mega events on tourism
  9. Using strategic tourism policy and planning tools for communities and nations
  10. Recognition of increased tourism activity in the East Asia and Pacific Region

The list was developed using university discussions; conferences and seminars; tourism documents; survey information; industry data; books, articles, and publications; and utilization of a modified Delphi approach in gathering certain research information and obtaining a consensus viewpoint.

Linking clean water and conserving biodiversity

Here’s one obvious serendipitous tag: clean water and conserving biodiversity.

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) says that in our rapidly urbanizing world, clean water is a precious commodity whose economic value is greater than the money gained from clearing the forests and wetlands that provide it. Intact forests and wetlands ensure clean and reliable drinking water.

Poor environmental management of these ecosystems, however, tends to result in poor water quality. Significant amounts of money are spent rectifying this problem – often through expensive water treatment infrastructure. Money can be more effectively spent by restoring the ability of the natural environment to fix the problem for us!

A recent report by the Ramsar Convention on illustrates how wetlands Water, wetlands and forests interact to produce healthy and productive ecosystems. Forests and wetlands help capture and store water to mitigate floods in periods of heavy rain and ensure steady water flow during drier seasons. Many forests depend on groundwater for survival, and rely on wetlands to replenish this.

Look at it from a city perspective – a third of the world’s cities get their water supply from forested/protected areas.

Moving too fast

The city of Tripoli moves too fast – and consequently has a mountain of a problem – that of used tyres! Like most urban cities anywhere in the world, the volume of tyres in the city has been increasing at a rapid rate. Used tyres pose a potential problem in their disposal – polluting the environment, degrading air, water and land resources.

The potential of reusing or recycling used tyres are only now being realized – as a road surface material, products such as roofing tiles, flooring tiles, carpet liners, athletic tracks, artificial grass etc.
Understanding the policy options for tyre disposal is a critical starting point that is facilitated by good qualitative and quantitative data. It will also help to understand the potential and develop a unique and customized tyre reuse/recycling system. GDRC has been helping set up such a system for Tripoli.

Beyond just 3Rs

While ‘3Rs’ stand for reduce, reuse and recycle of resources and wastes, the concept itself goes beyond just better waste management and calls for the building of an economy based on the life-cycle approach, covering both sustainable production and sustainable consumption.

The 3R approach, focusing on reduce, reuse, and recycle, essentially aims to set up a sound material cycle society within the concept of a life-cycle economy, where consumption of natural resources is minimized and the environmental load is reduced, as much as possible.

An important serendipitus tag that cuts across many themes covered by GDRC’s programmes, it lays the responsibility of achieving sustainable development squarely on individual decision-making that takes place daily at the micro level!

See GDRC’s infopac on 3R issues: