Rebuilding Japan for people and nature, IUCN

Seoul, Republic of Korea, 28 September, 2011 (IUCN) – As Japan rebuilds after the devastating impact of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami it needs to consider nature-based solutions as a key component to recovery and reconstruction efforts, says IUCN.

Planting mangrove saplings

Six months on from the disaster, nature based solutions can provide long term, cost effective and equitable results to both restore and conserve the natural environment, and build and support human wellbeing.

“Seasonal celebrations of nature, such as cherry blossom-viewing and moon-viewing are a testament to the close relationship between the Japanese people and nature,” says IUCN’s Radhika Murti. “IUCN calls on Japan to bring this close relationship between people and nature to the fore in the rebuilding and reconstruction efforts following the earthquake and tsunami.”

Supporting the services nature provides for human well-being can help protect people from disasters. Clearing forests means less protection from avalanches, landslides, storms, floods and tsunamis.

Overgrazing grasslands or poor land use can expose more land to dust storms and erosion. Converting wetlands to agricultural use loses the flood control and storm protection values these habitats once provided. Clearing coastal vegetation exposes coastal communities to greater damage from cyclones and tsunamis. In addition, climate change may further accelerate at least some of nature’s extreme events, especially storms and droughts.

“IUCN wants to share with Japan the lessons learnt from the Indian Ocean tsunami and do things better rather than simply restoring what was there before,” adds Jeff McNeely, Senior Science Advisor to IUCN. “IUCN promotes a plan which adapts as lessons are learned, doesn’t assume a ‘one size fits all’ strategy, and avoids further damage to the environment, ensuring that the rescue and relief phases contribute to longer-term environmental and social recovery.”

Reconstruction operations on this scale can have a significant environmental footprint, particularly if environmental considerations are not taken into account in planning and managing operations such as clean-up and waste disposal. This exacerbates the vulnerability of communities to future disasters. IUCN urges Japan to monitor and minimize further impacts on nature during the reconstruction phase, where possible.

IUCN stands ready to assist Japan to conduct scientific assessments required, bring different interested parties together to develop locally owned solutions, and learn lessons from best practices that Japan can share with the world.

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