Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Shinshu and the Research Project on Integrated Management of Forests, Rivers and the Sea

Shinshu and the research project on integrated management of forests, rivers and the sea

I spent ‘Golden Week’, a period of consecutive Japanese public holidays in May, at my country house in Shinshu, an inland district in the mountainous middle of Japan, the furthest point in the country from the ocean. On the first day it was chilly, so by night I was building a fire in the fire place. Getting up the next morning, I found the cherry trees were in full bloom, though hastening to shed their petals, while the larch trees were just beginning to show buds and a deep and vivid green. It seems the seasons are following one upon another more rapidly this year.

Still, the countryside was filled with new green foliage and adorned by colorful flowers. Having enjoyed the serenity, I planted seeds of vegetables (potato, cucumber, aubergine, etc.) in my garden, where butterflies, bees, ants, and other insects were busy taking advantage of the warm days of late spring.

Gazing at the sky and mountains of Shinshu, my thoughts began to turn to our research project, the "Integrated Management of the Sky, Forests, Rivers, and Sea." After a few years of holding provisional working group discussions, the project, under the name of the 'Forest, River and Sea project'(FRS project) finally got under way from this fiscal year.

The 'Forest, River and Sea project' is a three year long research project based on the concept that those three natural components are closely linked, as their ecosystems are connected through the flow of water from watersheds to the sea and also through the flow of organic substances in the water and connections among habitats. Although many of these linkages and the mechanisms of their flows are not yet fully understood, we believe that the best management scheme for these natural components, and eventually the marine/coastal environment, should take into account their undeniable linkages and be treated in a holistic manner. However, the administrative authorities dealing with the management of these natural components remain separated in Japan, and only some NGOs and local communities are applying the integrated approach, albeit on a small scale. Our project is thus to develop this approach by investigating the linkages scientifically and searching for concrete management schemes, including the development of stakeholder networks. Eventually, we are hoping to come up with policy suggestions. To start, we are now looking for a few model cases from among those community/NGO projects.

In addition to this project, OPRF is also carrying out ‘Integrated Coastal Management’ and ‘Health Assessment of the Marine Environment’ projects, and will be organically linking them as they develop.

As I was leaving Shinshu, the view of the late spring snow at the top of the Japanese Alps reminded me again of the natural cycle created through the continuous flow of water between the sky, the inland forests, and the sea.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

World Maritime University (WMU) Executive Council Meeting

I, Hiroshi Terashima, attended the 59th meeting of the Executive Council of the World Maritime University (WMU), Malmö, Sweden, held on 17 March. As the meeting coincided with the end of the Japanese annual budgetary period, I was forced to stay only one night there.

The meeting was particularly important since it discussed the ways in which the WMU should be reformed. The WMU was established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1983 with a view to promoting capacity-building in the field of maritime affairs for developing states. Now, being recognized as an internationally renowned university, it provides both practical (e.g., training courses in maritime affairs) and academic (e.g., a taught postgraduate programme and two doctoral programmes in maritime studies) courses. Last year, the University celebrated its 25th anniversary. Despite its success, problems associated with vulnerabilities in finance and in its managerial system drew attention in recent years.

The current meeting discussed above-mentioned issues on the basis of the report from the working group. In so doing, a majority supported the reform of the Board of Governors, including: the reduction of the number of the Board members from “70 or less” to “around 20”, holding the Board of Governors meeting more than once a year at the WMU, and selecting representatives from, among others, the maritime industries, seafarers, major donors, the maritime universities and the city of Malmö. In addition, the meeting discussed, inter alia: renaming the Executive Council as the “Executive Board” and necessary revisions of the WMU Charter. A view was expressed that, in selecting the member of the Board of Governors and the Executive Board, the possibility for gaining financial support should be taken into account. I agreed on this proposal, stating that, in joining the Boards, one should be responsible for the management of the WMU including financial issues.

The Executive Council meeting was informed that a new Operational Agreement with regard to the financial support was concluded between the WMU and the Swedish Government in February 2009. It was also reported that the Swedish Maritime Administration would replace the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), which is responsible for delivering an aid to developing countries, in dealing with the WMU. This change symbolizes the development of the WMU as an educational institution in maritime affairs.

Immediately before the current meeting, Dr. Bjorn Kjerfve was formally appointed as the next president of the WMU, taking office as from May 2009. We chatted about how to pronounce his name. He is professor of oceanography and geography and dean of the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University.

Developments such as the new managerial system and the appointment of the new president indicate in which direction the WMU is likely to develop. Wishing the prosperous future of the WMU, I finished my very brief trip and left Malmö.

During my inbound flight between Copenhagen and Frankfurt, I saw 72 white wind turbines squarely-spread over the blue sea, impressive scenery which provided me with the most vivid memory of the travel.