by Usami, Daiji
Citizens' Committee on the 2005 Aichi Expo Assessment
The 2005 International Exposition is scheduled to be held in Aichi Prefecture, located in central Japan, from March to September.
This exposition, with its theme of "Nature's Wisdom," has been planned to meet head on the challenges of the global environment facing the world in the 21st century.
It is self-evident that such an exposition should be carried out without destroying nature, but the designated site is an area popularly known as"Kaisho Forest"in Seto City, Aichi Prefecture.
Kaisho Forest is situated near Japan's 4th largest city, Nagoya (population: 2,000,000).
Although it is a second-growth forest, Kaisho Forest has a rich ecosystem and is known and loved by the residents of Nagoya and the surrounding areas.
If the exposition is held in Kaisho, a valuable oasis of nature incorporating traditional"Satoyama"(mountain village) of old Japan will be destroyed.
To prevent such destruction, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) needs to be carried out and thorough preventative measures need to be taken to minimize the negative effects the project may have.
In June 1997, when the general assembly of the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) chose Aichi Prefecture as the exposition site, an EIA Act was enacted in Japan.
However, the new law didn't come into effect until 1999, so the Aichi Expo is not subject to the new law. Instead, procedures for the EIA of the Expo were laid out in the"Outline of the Environmental Impact Assessment of the 2005 Japan International Expo"put out by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).
At the top of the paper, MITI states that even before the new EIA Act comes into effect, its spirit will be respected and the Aichi Expo EIA will stand as a model for the 21st century.
It has been two and a half years since then, and the actual Expo assessment is so far from the original grand claims that it is impossible to call it a "model for the 21st century."
First of all, there was the precondition that Kaisho Forest be the site of the Expo, and there has never been discussion of alternative sites.
Why? Because the main am of the Expo is to develop Kaisho-Forest for large scale housing and road construction projects.
Consideration of alternative sites is necessary to prove by comparison with other plans that the one put forth by the project managers is just and appropriate.
This is the trend in environmental assessments internationally.
But it was obvious that there would be no consideration of alternates from the beginning.
Secondly, the application process went ahead according to the schedule for construction that was to begin in the year 2000.
For example, although many citizens and experts expressed their opinions on the Scoping Document is unclear how these were taken into consideration in the environmental assessment procedures, and 10 months later, the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) was produced.
An environmental impact study that took into account the opinions of citizens and experts could not have been carried out in such a short time.
After the public viewing time for the Draft EIS, nesting goshawks were discovered within the designated site of the Expo, proof that the time allotted for the preliminary study was insufficient.
Because of the discovery of the goshawks, inorder to reduce the risk of the environment, the Expo site was enlarged to include nearby Aichi Youth Park (AYP), 3 kilometers from Kaisho Forest in Nagakute Town, a change completely unforeseen in the original project plans.
To guarantee residents the chance to express their opinions about this situation, there should be a new environmental assessment of the enlarged site including Nagakute.
However, there have been no plans for a complete environmental assessment of Aichi Youth Park because it would risk delaying completion of the project by the time of the 2005 Expo.
A third problem is that even though it will be impossible to avoid negative impact on plant and animal life, there are no credible mitigation proposals in the Draft EIS and in the Final EIS.
For example, there are many vague promises of"appropriate measures"to be taken or reliance on unproven mitigation measures such as"protection of species by transplantation."
But I think unproven mitigation measures should not be included in environmental assessments.
In April 2000 the Japanese government, Aichi Prefecture and the Japan Association for the Aichi Expo made major changes to the Expo site project that they had been promoting, deciding to eliminate housing and road construction projects, the planned use of the site after the Exposition, which is due to the wide criticism both in and out Japn. Details are showed this leaflet. Please read it later.
On May 28, 2000, a"Committee to Examine the Aichi Expo,"made up of representatives of Nature Conservation NGOs and Citizens'Groups, and intellectuals, was set up in the Japan Association for the Aichi Expo.
This committee has met 4 times so far.
It is still unclear how plans for the Aichi Expo will be affected by the committee's discussions, but the fact that there is a method for allowing citizens to participate directly in plans for large public works projects is a turning point in the history of Japanese public works projects.
As has been demonstrated, the Aichi Expo Environmental Impact Assessment can hardly be called a model asssessment for a new environmental era.
We have actively stated our opinions about the Scoping Document and the Draft EIS at the public hearings guaranteed to us.
We have done research and reported our findings at every point to the public as well as to the project managers.
This exposition, promoted in such fashion, should subject to public opinion throughout the world since the collective environmental consciousness was awakened at the Rio Summit.
We believe that the major changes in the Expo project that have shifted the site to a new area, Aichi Youth Park, require that there be a new assessment, and that ordinary citizens be guaranteed a place in these discussions.
We believe that these procedural guarantees are the most important factors in an environmental assessment. If Aichi Prefecture goes ahead with its plans to officially register for the 2005 Expo without making these procedural guarantees, it is going against the conceptual basis of the Expo itself with the theme of"Nature's Wisdom."
Thank you very much.
Finally, if anyone attending today would like to express their support for a proper assessment, they can send the comments to the Japan Association for the 2005 World Expo, e-mail address: email@example.comFeel free to write your comments in English. We would appreciate it if you could also send a copy to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org