Coastal Forest Restoration Project in Steady Progress

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May 15,2024

This year marks the 14th year since the Coastal Forest Restoration Project was launched on the coastal area of Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, following the Great East Japan Earthquake which caused devasting damage in March 11, 2011. 

Initially, the project was started as a 10-year plan with a total estimated cost of one billion yen, and 370,198 black pine trees were planted over an area of 103.05 hectares. In March 2021, the first 10-year project ended, and we immediately moved to the second 10-year plan mainly for maintenance work such as weeding, digging drainage canals, and thinning. All in all, the project is on a steady track.

Currently, the on-site work consists primarily of weeding and thinning. So far, about 37,000 trees have been thinned over the area of 47.44 hectares. Thinning work is carried out mostly by local professional forestry workers while local residents and volunteers, many of whom are repeaters, from various parts of the country performing supporting jobs. Woods from the thinned forest are processed into chips to generate biomass power.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has proclaimed May 22 as the International Biodiversity Day. The coastal forest restoration project has been promoted on the standpoint of conserving biodiversity, and establishing “biodiversity-friendly zones” in the project site. On the basis of the environmental impact studies conducted by researchers and volunteers up to 2019, some 1,272 plants and animals, and 69 wild birds were confirmed in the area.

Moreover, according to the recent preliminary surveys made by the Natori field manager of the project, the annual carbon dioxide absorption rate is estimated to be 606 tons in the coastal forest.

There are a number of factors that contributed to the successful operations of the coastal forest restoration project, and among other things, the following are said to be the main ones:

  1. The project has been implemented under major public-private sector cooperation agreements; The national government, Miyagi prefectural government, and Natori municipal government are all involved in the promotion of the project.
  2. It has been carried out by an efficient integrated operation from raising seedlings by the local disaster-affected farmers, planting trees by professional forest workers, local residents and volunteers, and post-planting maintenance work.
  3. OISCA has been utilizing private sector vitality and private funding (projects funded solely by donations and grants from private companies and organizations, and private individuals in Japan and overseas). 
  4. Up to the end of March, 2024, the project has created a total number of jobs for 10,412 persons in the local area, and a total of 14,024 volunteers have taken part in the project.

In a recently-held interview, Mr. Toshimichi Yoshida, Director for OISCA’s Global Sustainable Mission, who has been responsible for the coastal forest restoration project right from the beginning 14 years ago, affirmed that “we are not promoting this project solely for the benefit of OISCA or to receive commendations and awards by the government, but purely in response to the urgent appeal and earnest request from the disaster-affected local residents”.