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Kochi paper factory producing pollution, Japan

After many decades of air and water pollution, citizen and fishermen groups in Kochi city initiated a movement to remove the paper pulp factory. They resorted to direct action. The factory closed down in 1972.


 From the Tokugawa period (1760) onward Kochi City was famous for the production of papers, and paper manufacture has been a major industry there. As time went on, the rivers of Kochi became more and more polluted by paper-manufacturing discharges, and the people, particularly the fishermen, were increasingly threatened by the problem. According to the excellent description in the UNU report (1992) "Industrial Pollution in Japan" edited by Jun Ui, in the 1930s a pulp-processing plant was constructed, releasing even more effluent into the environment. In 1948 a new pulp complex was proposed for the old pulp plant site. The city administration and prefectural government supported the project while the local fishermen and the citizens were against it. The site was located within city limits and the plan included no facilities for treating industrial waste. The plan meant that the river running through residential areas to Urado Bay would be thoroughly polluted and there would be sulphur dioxide air-pollution problems to contend with as well. This groundswell of opposition continued after construction of the factory had begun in January 1949. In July of the same year the anti-factory citizens' movement and the company came to an agreement in relation to pollution prevention. The agreement read in part as follows: (a) The company will assume responsibility for damage done to the environment by factory operations, and will pay compensation.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Kochi paper factory producing pollution, Japan
State or province:Kochi prefecture
Location of conflict:Kochi
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Manufacturing activities
Specific commodities:Paper
Manufactured Products
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Responding to an initiative from the Daio Seishi (pulp) Company of Ehime Prefecture, this neighbouring prefecture provided funds for the project and the Nishi Nippon Pulp Factory went into operation in 1951.

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Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:50,000
Start of the conflict:1949
End of the conflict:1972
Company names or state enterprises: Nishi Nippon Pulp Factory from Japan
Daio Pulp from Japan
Relevant government actors:Kochi city government
Kochi prefecture
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Citizens movement, Kochi
Urado Bay Protection Citizens' group
Fisherment movement to protect Urado Bay
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Direction action to stop the effluents running to Urado Bay
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Other Environmental impactsDamage to aquatic biodiversity and to fisheries
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of alternatives:Many years later, in the 2000s, the Eco-Town Kochi City Business Plan aims to further expand a cluster of
recycling industries within the city’s harbour and industrial complex (which has a focus on wood, paper and related industries). Eco-Towns are planned in other formerly polluted industrial cities also.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The direct action of citizens (stopping toxic discharges by pouring cement to block the pipes) led to a court case against the activists. The mild sentences was considered a victory. The factory closed down in 1972.
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

UN University report on environmental conflicts in Japan (excellent information), 1992, edited by Jun Ui
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Other documents

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Last update23/12/2016
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