Creating Forests To Reduce Tsunami Damage

Creating Forests to Reduce Tsunami DamageYokohama National University professor emeritus Akira Miyawaki, who to date has planted over 40 million trees in 1,700 locations in Japan and overseas, is continuing his tree planting activities not only in Japan but also on twice monthly overseas trips.


"After 60-plus years of local research, currently in areas inhabited by 92.8% of Japan's population of 128 million, the remaining evergreen forests consisting of deep and straight-rooted trees including shrine forests only make up 0.6% of Japanese land."

Iwanumi City in Miyagi Prefecture suffered tremendous damage from the Great East Japan Earthquake. To prepare for the next disaster, Miyawaki is promoting natural selection through mixed and dense planting of multiple types of trees as he advocates the creation of forests that do not require oversight. Iwanuma City has incorporated Miyawaki's philosophy in establishing the "1,000-year Kibonooka Project" in preparation for the next disaster.

"A big challenge was how to resurrect the areas affected by the disaster. Given this background, we launched the "1,000-year Kibonooka Project" as something that will last forevermore into the future. One of the goals is to limit the destructive force of tsunamis, as well as to use the forest as an emergency shelter and on a regular basis as a place where children can come to learn about protecting lives. We also want to make this a memorial park that will remember the tragedy for a thousand years into the future. We encountered various limitations, but we created this project also with the goal of achieving efficient use of debris."

Tide protection forests to date have primarily consisted of a single type of tree such as red or black pine. But shallow-rooted pine trees were uprooted by the tsunami and did not serve their purpose.

Miyawaki proposed to efficiently use the tremendous amount of debris created by the disaster as a resource excluding toxic and non-decomposable material. Sorted debris is mixed with dirt and used to fill dug-out holes to create large mounds that are further covered with dirt.

In planting trees, primary constituent trees are selected that grow long, deep roots and match the potential natural vegetation of an area. Three to five saplings of various other vegetation that make up the forest in addition to the main constituent trees are planted per square meter. This will require weeding for the first two to three years, but no maintenance is required after that. Twenty years after the tree planting there will be an abundant forest that will remain generation after generation until the next ice age predicted to occur in 9,000 years.

The forest will function as a green barrier, and by making the mound high it will also protect against large tsunamis. By reducing the energy of a tsunami, the mound will reduce the height and speed of the tsunami, thereby increasing the potential to protect people and property.

"To date, based on decisions made by leaders of companies with foresight, we have created Miyawaki-type forests in Japan and abroad."

"38 countries including those where we have conducted local surveys. We have planted trees on four continents.We talk about greening deserts, but two-thirds of the deserts on earth have been created by humans. The remaining 10% or so of absolute deserts will not support forests. These absolute deserts should remain as is. But areas that have been destroyed by humans can support forests."

Pride One Entertainment's Yasushi Akutagawa, who has expressed interest in Miyawaki's simple efforts to protect the environment, is thinking of supporting the forest building movement through film.

"We want the people of the world to become aware of Dr. Miyawaki's great work. We are thinking of using film as a way to make this possible. We want to assemble a group of leading Japanese actors, screenwriters, and film staff members to depict Dr. Miyawaki's life. "

"Humans have survived by turning crisis into opportunity. Thus we want to do what can be done now to survive the next natural disaster that will definitely come--which is to create forests that protect lives--and spread this know-how from Japan to the world. We want to turn crisis into opportunity by spreading forests of the 21st century from Japan to the world and have the world recognize their value."

VIDEO Creating Forests to Reduce Tsunami Damage