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The Governor of Tokyo, in essence a super mayor, Shintaro Ishihara who oversees a population of millions, will be among the many speakers at the 2012 World Cities Summit in Singapore that runs from July1-4 and will be the site of more than 3,500 world leaders and mayors from across the globe.
Begun in 2008, this year’s summit focuses on the the theme of “Liveable and Sustainable Cities – Integrated Urban Solutions.” Ishihara, 79, will be addressing sustainable development and how it relates to cities, water and the environment.Ishihara worked as a journalist during the Vietnam war and in 1989 was co-author of a controversial book entitled “The Japan That Can Say No.” He was first elected as Governor of Tokyo in 1999 and is now serving his fourth term.Incidentally, New York City is the earliest “Sister City” of Tokyo, having connected in February, 29, 1960.
What do you think is the major problem facing Tokyo today?
The Great East Japan Earthquake of March last year exposed the vulnerability of city life and shook the foundations of measures we had in place for disaster management.
Based on Tokyo’s 10-Year Plan, we have been working to create 1,000 hectares of greenery, achieve a low-carbon city, build communities that can withstand disasters, and resolve the low birthrate issue, in our aim to turn Tokyo into a city that is appropriate for the 21st century.
In order to accelerate these efforts and also address new challenges that have surfaced after the earthquake, such as the necessity of boosting disaster response capabilities and implementing energy policies, last December we formulated Tokyo Vision 2020, our new urban strategy targeting the year 2020. Positioning disaster response and energy policy as the main pillars, eight goals in areas such as the environment, urban infrastructure, welfare, and sports have been raised. Along with defining policy direction, initiatives that will be strategically implemented to achieve the eight goals have been clarified as the 12 key projects.
Tokyo will use this plan as a compass to guide its transformation into a city that can be proudly showcased to the world and to take Japan to further heights.
After traces of radiation were found in Tokyo’s water following the collapse of various Japanese reactors, are things back to normal for your citizens?
On March 22 and 23, 2011, radioactive material surpassing the national standards for drinking water for infants (100Bq/kg) was detected in water coming from the Kanamachi purification plant. Public relations activities were undertaken to have the public refrain from giving tap water to infants, but the concentration soon dropped to safe levels on March 24. No radioactive materials have been detected from drinking water since April 5.
Additional measurement devices have been installed to strengthen the inspection system, and test results continue to be regularly posted on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government website to dispel concerns. The lives of our residents have fully returned to normal.
We also measure airborne radiation daily and regularly monitor food distributed in the city, and by making the results public, ensure food safety and a safe living environment for our citizens.
Should Japan continue its nuclear program?
With regard to nuclear power policy, it is first crucial for the nation to establish a basic strategy for the energy issue, which is key to national development. This will determine the level of economic growth desired and how much of what kinds of energy need to be secured to achieve this aim.
If nuclear power plants are then deemed necessary, the national government should responsibly build and maintain a system to appropriately manage and operate nuclear power facilities.
Do you support cap and trade?
Taking responsibility as a metropolis that places significant burdens on the planet, in April 2010, Tokyo took an active stance to implement change by being the first in the world to launch an urban cap-and-trade program covering not only factories but office buildings as well.
This has motivated companies to take significant steps in investing in energy-saving systems for their office buildings and other facilities.
What does the average resident of Tokyo worry about?
According to a poll taken by the metropolitan government, the top five concerns our residents would like us to focus on are: disaster management (53%), measures for senior citizens and public safety (44% each), medical care and public health (41%), and environmental measures (28%).
Any major city projects projected?
Tokyo made a bid for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and was formally selected as a candidate city this May. For Japan to host the Games would serve to show the world our country’s restoration after the earthquake and tsunami last year and express our gratitude to people around the world for supporting us. It would also demonstrate how the power of sports provides encouragement to people who are facing difficulties. The bid activities are now entering a new level. To ensure a bright future for Japan, the nation will use its full resources to ensure that Tokyo wins the bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
Photo Credit : Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPac