Japan is the world's largest importer of wood, pulp, and paper products that are traded on the world market. Thus, Japan's impact is felt in many countries around the world, including the USA, Canada, Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Chile and many others. About one third of all logs exported from Malaysia and Russia, plywood from Indonesia and sawn wood from Chile are destined for Japan. Almost all of the woodchip exported from Australia, the USA and Chile is also headed to Japan.
Outside Japan, Japanese timber and trading corporations are known for their devastating logging techniques and their violation of community rights to resources. For example, in 1990 the Japanese paper company Daishowa blatantly disregarded the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation's land rights in Alberta, Canada and began clear-cutting the forests of the Lubicon territory.
Many Japanese advocacy groups have been campaigning for years to reduce
logging in Southeast Asia. They have also been working on local governments
to reduce tropical timber consumption for public construction. Yet Japan
continues to support deforestation in the tropics as well as the world's
Japan's forests cover 66% of the land, making it one of the most heavily
forested countries in the world. However, after liberalizing timber import
in 1960, the Japanese wood self-sufficiency rate has consistently decreased
from 86.7% to 19.2% in 1999. The Japanese forest industry has been defeated
by cheap wood shipped from abroad. The cheap price, however, does not include
environmental costs. During this period Japanese wood production has decreased
one third, and the number of forestry workers has fallen to one-sixth of
its previous number. Because of the decline of the industry and small number
of new young workers, the number of forestry workers over 65 years old climbed
to 29% in 1999.
After World War II, large-scale softwood plantations, such as cedar
and cypress, were established in order to meet growing domestic wood demand.
Now plantations account for 40% of Japanese forests. Maintenance such as
weeding, cleaning cutting, thinning and pruning is needed for plantation
management. However, demand for domestic wood is low and maintenance such
as thinning is not put into practice. The result is that overcrowded, poor-growing,
thin trees are left as is and little sunlight in the dense forest limits
undergrowth, causing surface soil erosion. The situation not only disturbs
efficient use of timber resources, but also leaves forests vulnerable to
disease and pests and can cause disasters such as landslides when heavy
rain. Reforestation is not put into practice after logging, making the situation
even more serious.
Today, annual forest growth in Japan has reached 70 million cubic meters,
but annual wood production is 19 million cubic meters, or less than one
third of annual growth. If appropriate forest management and proper evaluation
are realized throughout the world, and Japanese forestry is revitalized,
impacts to forests overseas by Japanese wood demand could be reduced. However,
current international trade and investment negotiations are taking Japan
in another direction.
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