Kushiro Marsh in Hokkaido is Being Encroached Upon by Mega Solar Power Plants | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Kushiro Marsh in Hokkaido is Being Encroached Upon by Mega Solar Power Plants

Precious wildlife habitat is in danger.

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Numerous solar panels installed in Kushiro Marshlands National Park. Concerns over impact on precious wildlife

Kushiro Marshlands National Park is located in eastern Hokkaido. In 1980, it was the first park in Japan to be registered under the Ramsar Convention for the Conservation of Wetlands, and it is famous for being home to rare wildlife. The marshland, which should be considered a treasure house of nature, is now being encroached upon by mega solar power plants.

About 10 years ago, there was only one mega solar power plant in Kushiro City and Kushiro Town, but now there are 27 mega solar power plants, the largest of which is about 2.1 million square meters (the equivalent of 45 Tokyo Domes). Foreign capital from Europe, the U.S., and Asia is also moving into the area one after another, and there are plans for solar power plants as large as 4 million m2 (equivalent to 86 of the same area). Of the planned sites that were referred to Kushiro City this fiscal year, approximately 10 million square meters (214 of the same area) overlap with suitable habitat for the endangered northern salamander,” said a Kushiro City official.

Nobumichi Kurosawa, chairman of Trust Sarun Kushiro, a nonprofit organization that acquires and self-manages land for the preservation of Kushiro Marsh, explains why mega solar power companies are targeting the area.

Kushiro Marsh has long hours of sunlight and flat land, so it is easy to install solar panels. The urbanization control zone bordering the national park is particularly targeted because it is close to the city and has a well-developed power grid. Last April, the Kushiro Marshlands Nature Restoration Council, of which we are a member, submitted a proposal to the mayor of Kushiro requesting restrictions on the siting of solar panels. Unless an enforceable ordinance is enacted soon, overdevelopment will not be stopped.

Based on the recommendations, the city introduced a notification system in July of last year, clearly indicating areas where solar panels are not appropriate to be installed and establishing compliance requirements for installers. However, even six months later, the system is still not being followed, and problems continue to occur. In December of last year, a Tokyo-based company, which was proceeding with the installation of solar panels on a vast area of approximately 3.3 million m2 of land, was punished for excavating through a forest without permission. In addition, problems involving foreign workers have also erupted. Mayumi Kano, who runs a guest house in Kushiro City, said, “Chinese workers have been working on the project for a while.

A Chinese worker had been renting out the guest house for a while for construction work, but he ran away without paying his rent. We managed to collect the money from the affiliated company, but at one point we were prepared to sue.

What do installation operators think about this? Tokyu Land Corporation, which operates Kushiro’s largest solar power plant, Suzuran Kushiro-cho Solar Power Plant, responded, “We are taking action to protect rare species.

Tokyu Land Corporation, which operates “Suzuran Kushiro-cho Solar Power Plant,” the largest of its kind in Kushiro, responded, “To protect rare species, we have planned the construction in consideration of the timing and routes. We also conducted an ecological survey on the impact of the development at the request of the Ministry of the Environment and an NPO” (Public Relations Office).

Once the nature of the marshland is lost, it will take a long time to recover. Strict regulations will need to be put in place before it is too late.

From the February 16, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • Reporting and photographing Masayoshi Katayama (Journalist)

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