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Top>Research>In the International Year of Water Cooperation, considering the responsibility for water environment education for the formation of a sustainable society


Hiroshi Yamamura

Hiroshi Yamamura [profile]

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In the International Year of Water Cooperation, considering the responsibility for water environment education for the formation of a sustainable society

Hiroshi Yamamura
Assistant Professor of Sanitary Engineering, Membrane Separation, and Polymer Chemistry, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University

Reason for pursuing a career in water

I would like to start by discussing my home of Kagawa Prefecture. Recently, Kagawa is attracting attention for the campaign to change its name to Udon (Noodle) Prefecture. Even so, many people do not know where Kagawa is located within the island of Shikoku. Until 1994, Kagawa Prefecture was the 2nd-smallest prefecture after Osaka Prefecture. However, when the Seto Inland Sea was filled in to construct Kansai International Airport, the area of Osaka Prefecture surpassed Kagawa Prefecture, making it the smallest prefecture in Japan. Despite being small, Kagawa has many plains. Perhaps this is why agriculture has been prevalent since long ago. During the Edo Period, Kagawa dominated Japan’s product of salt, sugar and cotton, which were known as the Three Sanuki Whites. Even today, it is possible to tour Seto salt production in coastal areas. When standing on the ridge of salt fields, you can feel the warm and calm breeze, recalling the time when the salt industry reigned supreme in Kagawa.

A letter submitted to the Imperial Court from the provincial governor of Sanuki contained the following message: "After 5 days of sunny weather, there is no moisture; if heavy rains continue for 2 days, there is the danger of flooding…" As shown by this statement, Kagawa has struggled with water control and utilization since long ago. A glimpse of this history can be seen in the many reservoirs and adjacent shrines. Kagawa Prefecture possesses a sunny climate unique to the Seto region. Another feature is its location in between the Sanuki Mountains and the Seto Inland Sea, which results in a small drainage basin area. Furthermore, rivers in the area are very steep. All of these features create a climate which is prone to droughts.

When I was in the 2nd-grade of junior high school in the summer of 1994, there was little precipitation during the rainy season. In that summer, the dams which serve as a water source were completely dry. Water restriction orders were issued in the prefecture. I still remember the sense of panic in the prefecture—water trucks were deployed, plastic containers were sold out and water was shut off during the night. An extremely large amount of water is needed to create the unique texture of Sanuki udon noodles. Naturally, the water restrictions caused udon shops to close. After experiencing this severe drought, I decided to enter Hokkaido University in order to study water.

Membrane separation technology helps solve global water problems

Currently, approximately 30% of water resources for Kagawa are supplied through Kagawayousui which serves water conveyed over the mountains from Yoshino River in Tokushima Prefecture. In turn, the Sameura Dam in Kochi Prefecture is the water source for the Yoshino River in Tokushima Prefecture. In this way, there is a domino structure in which Kagawa depends on Tokushima and Tokushima on Kochi for water resources. If the Sameura Dam goes dry, it is not possible to secure water resources for Tokushima Prefecture. Therefore, when the water level of the dam falls, supply of water to Kagawa Prefecture is stopped first. Accordingly, negotiation regarding water resources is an extremely important issue for both of the prefectures. In particular, Kagawa is deeply indebted to Tokushima and Kochi.

The country of Singapore is in exactly the same difficult position as Kagawa. As you know, Singapore is an extremely small country with a large population. This means that the amount of water resources per person is very small. As a result, Singapore once depended on imports from Malaysia for 50% of its water resources. This gave Malaysia a tight rein on Singapore. In 2004, Malaysia issued a notice that the price of water supplied to Singapore would be increased by 100 times. This decision was due to tightening water resources in Malaysia caused by the country’s rapid economic growth. The notice sent shockwaves through Singapore. Taking the stance that securing water is part of national security, the Singaporean government started the NEWater Project (a water recycling project). This national project seeks to diversify water resources through new methods such as seawater desalination and recycling of sewage. The technology used is such methods as separation membranes, which possess many small holes that are approximately 1/100 of the cross-section of a human hair. Using separation membranes makes it possible to manufacture pure water by removing only the salt from sea water. It is also possible to completely remove hazardous substances such as bacteria and trace contaminants from sewage. Since the technology changes such water into drinking water, there is hope that it will be applied in countries which lack water resources. Currently, I am working hard to research the development of next-generation water metabolism systems which utilize separation membranes to deliver the required amount of water in the required quality to needy areas. In the future, I would like to propose a water metabolism system which offers a fundamental solution to water issues in regions which lack water resources, like Kagawa Prefecture.

Chuo University’s International Symposium on Water Environment

Putting aside membranes, cases like those of Kagawa and Singapore exist throughout the world in different scales. Water issues are a security problem which cannot be solved by that country or region alone. Once a water problem occurs, it is necessary for an organization to mediate a solution and assist in negotiations. In the case of a village, the village mayor performs this role to some degree. In the case of a prefecture, then the prefectural government is responsible, while the United Nations performs the role of mediator in the case of a country. In actuality, the United Nations implements a variety of actions for solving water issues. The category of Water and Sanitation is included in the UN’s list of Thematic Areas. Since a lack of water resources leads to conflict and prevents economic growth, it is recognized as an extremely important issue. Moreover, the infant mortality rate decreases once running water is provided to more than 80% of the population, to say nothing of contributions to the economic growth of a country. For such reasons, the UN is strongly committed to solving water issues.

Through support from the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), Chuo University will hold the International Symposium on Water Environment on March 22nd in the International Year of Water Cooperation. In addition to a keynote address by Kiyotaka Akasaka (President of the Foreign Press Center, the former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information), numerous water experts from partner institutes of Chuo University have been invited to give lectures at the symposium. Themes include the status of water issues in countries such as China and Vietnam, as well as future actions. Admission is free and simultaneous Japanese-English interpretation is available. If you are interested, please attend the symposium. Details are available at the homepage listed below.

Responsibility of the Program for Capacity Building in Global-Water Environment

According to the primatologist Jane Goodall, the difference between humans and chimpanzees is that humans can discuss the past and formulate plans for the future. For Homo sapiens, education for discussing the past has played an important role in the continued existence of our species. A major responsibility for mankind is to conduct education for cultivating next-generation professionals and to support sustainable development in the next generation. We as researchers have extremely great responsibility. With the goal of cultivating specialists who will solve water issues in Asia, Chuo University operates the Program for Capacity Building in Global-Water Environment. Currently, 10 foreign students have come to our university from China and Vietnam. Together with Japanese students, these foreign students are enthusiastically studying advanced technology related to water environments. Personally, as an educator involved in this program, I am working as hard as possible to develop professionals. When foreign students studying at Chuo University return to their home countries and contribute to the cultivation of professionals in coming generations, our technology and wisdom will have passed from the past to the present and the future. I believe that this will bring the entire world a little closer to a sustainable society. In the future, I will strengthen my resolve to cultivate new professionals.

Hiroshi Yamamura
Assistant Professor of Sanitary Engineering, Membrane Separation, and Polymer Chemistry, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University
In 2013, scheduled to assume the position of Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrated Science and Engineering for Sustainable Society, Faculty of Science and Engineering.
Born in Kagawa Prefecture. Graduated from the School of Engineering, Hokkaido University in 2004. Completed the Master’s Program in the Graduate school of Engineering, Hokkaido University in 2006. Completed the Doctoral Program in the Graduate school of Engineering, Hokkaido University in 2008. Holds a PhD in Engineering.
After working in the Membrane/Water Treatment Division at Asahi Kasei Chemicals Corporation, took his current position from April 2012.
His current research themes include development of technology for suppressing the obstruction of separation membranes, separation of microalgae using membranes, treatment of landfill leachate, and development of seawater desalination membranes.
His major written work is Manufacturing Technology and Materials Assessment for Water Treatment Membranes.
Actively conducts outreach activities and is certified as a communicator in science and technology.