Lake Biwa is where most of the fresh water in Shiga Prefecture gathers. It is important to think beyond the lake to the forests that collect the water and to the agriculture that uses the water.
There are 14.5 million people that rely on the water from Lake Biwa. In order to maintain the volume and quality of the water, it is necessary to protect the forests that cover half the land of Shiga Prefecture. The forests which provides water to Lake Biwa are 60% primitive and 40% cultivated. Cultivated artificial forests are grown for timber for building houses and the like. To maintain such artificial forests, a cycle of “plant, grow, use and plant again” is very important. The most important thing is to use the trees. If the trees are not used, the forest will be left without care and abandoned. The children of Shiga Prefecture learn this through a program called ”Yamanoko (children of the mountains).”
The Yamanoko program teaches 4th graders knowledge of and develops interest for forestry through hands-on observation of plants and the thinning of trees. The program also helps children learn and communicate with others. In 2016, almost all of the 235 elementary schools in Shiga Prefecture participated in the program.
Pesticides are used to protect plants from sickness and insects.Fertilizers are necessary for growing plants. However, over dependence on fertilizer could cause damage to the lake environment. Therefore, farmers in Shiga Prefecture are working on ”environmentally friendly agriculture” which uses as little chemical agents as possible. The size of environmentally friendly agriculture in Shiga (15550 ha) is number 1 in Japan.
(Changes in environmentally-friendly agricultural produce cultivating areas→)
Rice fields around the lake are an important spawning ground for lake fish. Rice fields have shallow water, which means the water is warmer and has a lot of plankton for young fish to eat. Also, there are no predators such as largemouth bass. The fish nursery paddy field project has been initiated to provide fish safer spawning grounds by creating waterways through which fish can easily reach the rice fields. Many children participate in this project as environmental learning activities. Rice produced from paddy field as nursery grounds for fishes is called “Yurikago SuidenMai” and is certified by Shiga Prefecture.
The projects mentioned above will gain more ground the more people know and support them by eating the food generated through them. In Shiga Prefecture, a catch phrase “eat eco” (eat more, protect more, Lake Biwa) is commonly used to encourage people to consume more environmentally friendly agriculture products.
This page is partly sourced from “Learn about Lake Biwa,” a short handbook of Lake Biwa published by Shiga Prefecture on March, 2018.
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