By Janet Kirkton, Dredging Industry Steward
In my last post, I shared a definition and a summary of what reclamation means to members of the sediment management industry. For part two of this series, I offer the city of Rikuzentakata, Japan, as the finest and most comprehensive case study of reclamation I have encountered to date. Truly a remarkable example of resilience and persistence, I encourage you to read more about the city either on the internet or in the book, Let’s Talk About It: What Really Happened in the Disaster Area, written by Futoshi Toba, Mayor of Rikuzentakata.
Following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, a massive tsunami nearly decimated the coastal community of Rikuzentakata, Japan. During the height of the tsunami, waves and storm surge exceeded 13 meters in the sections closest to the sea, destroying a floodplain forest of 70,000 pines and nearly 80% of the city’s infrastructure. The tsunami also claimed about 1,700 lives and dramatically impacted the ability of the city’s farmers and fishermen to generate revenue and sustain the local economy.
Reclamation projects typically contribute to the economic, environmental, and cultural development of the community they serve, which from a sustainability perspective is pretty awesome. As part of Caterpillar’s commitment to sustainability, we often think about the long-term significance of what our solutions are creating – well beyond just the physical infrastructure. When you consider what is happening within in Rikuzentakata, the following core concepts seem to apply – often in intersecting ways.
Hope & Vitality
“I have something to say to our children, our young people who will carry the future generations. We are working towards recovery for the children.”
“I want to make a city that children do not have to give up their dreams for.”
“I want Rikuzentakata to become a beautiful city, one that can boast to the world.”
Endurance & Resiliency
The reclamation efforts ARE the future of the city. It was so totally destroyed that there is no city without reclamation. For generations, the residents of Rikuzentakata have primarily been farmers and fisherman. In March 2011, they pretty much lost everything. Rather than just letting the city die, I am inspired by the endurance and resiliency they have demonstrated to find new and innovative ways to jumpstart the economy, remediate the environment, and create a renewed way of life. Here are just a few examples:
The lesson to be learned from Rikuzentakata is that no matter how we define reclamation, the results are so much more important than the quantity of earth that was moved. Reclamation can be applied to many things: recovering an economy after a natural disaster, creating sanctuary from a storm, restoring a way of life for a coastal community, preserving a single tree or regenerating an entire forest of trees. It can also be all of these things at once, within a singular vision for a beautiful city. Rikuzentakata is crafting a legacy we can all be proud of.
For part three of this series, check back soon for a breakdown of why we need land reclamation, what specific activities are included, and an overview of the Caterpillar job site solutions at work on reclamation sites worldwide.