Environmental Pollution is a world wide problem. It is particularly serious in China South East Asia where economies are booming. Japan is no exception with its high growth period half a century ago.
Recently among the worst cases was a cadmium poisoning that caused a condition known as itaitai disease, and recently a new page has been turned in the history of this calamity.
Mariko Noda gives us the story from NHK World's Toyama Studio. Hello Mariko.
Could you explain what itaitai disease is?
The disease occurred here in Toyama in 1968 it was actually designated as Japan's first pollution related illness. Some 200 cases were officially recognized since then.
A softening of the bones and liver, dysfunction caused sever pain all over the body. Sick people constantly said "itai" the Japanese name for 'it hurts' hence the name 'itaitai'
The disease was caused by cadmium poisoning by local mining. Toxins from the mine seeped into the river and contaminated farm lands down stream.
The cadmium accumulated in the bodies of the residents who ate locally produced rice. Work to restore the contaminated land took 33 years to complete, and ended just last month.
A ceremony was held to mark the completion of the decontamination work. About 1700 hectares of farm land was affected half of it was converted into housing plots, parks and other facilities.
The governments and the mining company spent 500,000,000 to replace the top soil and turn it back into arable land. But there was no place to dump the contaminated soil so they buried it on site, deep underground.
First the contaminated top soil was removed, then the healthy soil below was dug out, making a huge hole. Next the polluted top soil was put in the hole and covered by the healthy soil.
Finally the entire plot was covered with soil brought from nearby mountains.
Nobumasa Kanamori's farm was once badly polluted. It was impossible for him to plant rice that was edible. He was forced to grow rice that was made for making industrial glue.
Work to improve his farm's soil ended four years ago. After passing safety inspections he was allowed to produce edible rice again. But he still faces obstacles
"When I first started growing rice with food my fields were filled with stones and rocks"
The mountain soil lacked the nutrients needed to grow rice. Kanamori had to start from scratch, he's still trying to make the soil nutritious enough for rice cultivation. But he often has to use chemical fertilizers.
"I Love my farm land, so I'm determined to do whatever I can, but I feel unsure about my future"
Mariko, can you tell us about the museum that's about to open in Toyama?
Yes the Yuko, the Toyama Prefecture itaitai museum is set to open on april 29th, this place will show how local communities tackled the disease with explanations in English, Chinese, Russian and other languages.
museum volunteers will tell visitors about the personal experience of patients their families and local residence.
The people of Toyama have battled environmental pollution for generations. They hope to convey the tragedy and its lessons to the world in future generations.
Thanks very much Mariko