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Teshima island, waste dispute, Japan

Over 700,000 tons of industrial waste, including heavy metals, PCB, oil and shredded material were illegally dumped on this tiny island. ShozoAki, a young resident, led a grassroots campaign after 1990 against the industrial waste disposal business.


The worst case of illegal dumping of industrial waste in Japan occurred on Teshima Island in Kagawa prefecture. The heavily laden ships came wending their way past the  islands that fill this Inland Sea, to dump their cargoes of shredded automobiles and other toxic waste on this island. That it was part of a national park did nothing to obstruct the illegal traffic. After the year 2000, an impermeable wall was to be constructed on the north coast of the disposal area to prevent polluted water from flowing out to sea. A total of 600 000 tons of industrial waste was estimated to be sent to Naoshima Island. This material would be melted down and transformed into slag at a new melting furnace in Naoshima, with a capacity of 200 tons per day. The slag would be reused as aggregate in concrete.  This was the plan for solving the  25-year-old dispute over industrial waste dumped  ilegally on Teshima Island after a court ruled in favour of the islanders in 1996.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Teshima island, waste dispute, Japan
State or province:Kagawa prefecture
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

According to Tsukasa Kamata, Japan Times, Jun 7, 2007, the accumulation of industrial waste, including metal, oil and shredded construction material illegally dumped still occupied in 2007 nearly 80,000 sq. meters of the 15-sq.-km island of Teshima in the scenic Seto Inland Sea. Even so, cuttlefish, sea cactus, grass wrack, crabs and other tiny organisms had recently begun to reappear on the once foul-smelling black sludge mud next to the beach. Teshima was the site of one of Japan’s worst cases of illegal dumping of industrial waste. Activist Shozo Aki had started a young yellowtail fish project in 1975 when he had returned to the island after graduating from a university. But he was forced to close down the fish farm when a huge amount of filthy water laced with deadly dioxin leeched from the beach into the sea in 1990. Aki, at the time one of the younger residents of the island, went on to lead a grassroots campaign against the industrial waste disposal business, later becoming a board member of the Teshima residents’ council on industrial waste. In June 2000, the residents agreed with the Kagawa Prefectural Government on a plan to remove all the waste from the islet and render it harmless on the neighboring island of Naoshima. By 2007 one-third of the waste has been removed since April 2003. The cost for the removal and recycling work on Teshima and Naoshima is estimated at roughly 50 billion yen. About 60 percent will be covered by funds from the central government. “It took four years to remove one-third,” said Shigeharu Nakaji, 50, director of the Environmental Monitoring Laboratory in Osaka. “This shows it will take at least eight years to dispose of the remaining two-thirds. It is not clear whether the disposal program will be completed in a decade as claimed by Kagawa Prefecture.” Nakaji is part of a group of people, including lawyers, environmentalists and academic researchers, who have supported Teshima’s fight against the illegal dumping.

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Project area:1500
Level of Investment:800,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1400
Start of the conflict:1975
End of the conflict:2000
Company names or state enterprises:Teshima Sogo Kanko Kaihatsu Co. from Japan
Kubota Environmental Service Co., Ltd from Japan
Relevant government actors:Prefecture of Kagawa
Ministry of Environment
Takamatsu District Court
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Teshima residents’ council on industrial waste
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow
Potential: Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsThreat of dioxin, PCB, heavy metals.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Development of alternatives:The Setouchi Olive Foundation was launched in 2000 by Tadao Ando and Kohei Nakabo to restore the natural coastal environment of Japan's Inland Sea. In particular, this initiative has focused on the island of Teshima, Kagawa prefecture, which was damaged by the illegal dumping of industrial waste.
The Setouchi Olive Foundation has set up a website, "The Teshima Island School," to explain the historical significance of the Teshima waste-dumping scandal.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:After 25 years of illegal waste dumping, a plan was worked out to shift the industrial waste dumped in the Teshima island to a neighbouring island where it is treated.
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Prof. Fumikazu Yoshida (Hokkaido Univ.) (on the issue of accountability and liability). The Economics of Waste and Pollution Management in Japan, chapter 3.
[click to view]

Takatsuki, H. J Mater Cycles Waste Manag (2003) 5: 26-30. doi:10.1007/s101630300005
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Island’s environment recovering from illegal waste; residents try to follow suit, by Tsukasa Kamata, Japan Times, Jun 7, 2007
[click to view]

New Tork Times, Japanese Winning Cleanup Battles, by HOWARD W. FRENCH, 2 July 2003
[click to view]

Present illegal dumping site in Teshima of trigger for recycling. Miru News and Report, 12 June 2015
[click to view]

Mika Endo. Waste, Peripheries, and Modern Japan: A Report on the Luce Environmental Study Tour. By liasescholar. October 14, 2015. Written by Mika Endo
[click to view]

Teshima island waste dispute, in Japan Times, 27 May 2000
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Other documents

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Last update04/05/2019
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