New Environmental Co-operation between UNEP and the Government of Japan
Nairobi, 1 April 2011 - World-class environmental research has received an important boost, thanks to the strengthening of a partnership between the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Government of Japan.
Signing a Memorandum of Understanding at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, the two parties have renewed co-operation on the International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC), based in Osaka.
The Centre is dedicated to the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries and countries with economies in transition by means of providing training and consulting services, carrying out research, and accumulating and disseminating related information with special focus on environmentally sustainable management of big cities.
Achim Steiner, UN Under Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: " I would like to thank the Government of Japan for its continued support in the field of clean and innovative technology. It is one of the keys to unlocking a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy and achieving a transformative outcome which evolves sustainable development at next year's Rio+20 meeting in Brazil to meet the new realities and opportunites of the 21st century".
Since 2004, the Centre has focused on three key areas: waste management, water and sanitation and disaster management. Recent IETC publications include a report on how improved waste management can help tackle climate change and the role of Environmentally Sound Technologies in improving the efficiency of Urban and Domestic Water Use.
"Through the International Environmental Technology Centre, Japan continues to contribute to key UNEP activities - particularly in building technological capacity in developing countries," said His Excellency Mr. Toshihisa Takata, Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Kenya. "We believe that by renewing this Memorandum of Understanding, we can strengthen even further the relationship between UNEP and Japan," added Mr. Takata.
One of the key projects implemented by the IETC on behalf of UNEP has been support for the environmental management of the Iraqi Marshlands.
The marshlands - considered by some as the original biblical "Garden of Eden" - constitute the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East, with major environmental and cultural importance. Since the 1970s, the Marshlands have been damaged significantly due to upstream dam construction and drainage operations. By 2003, they had been almost entirely destroyed.
It was against this background that IETC launched its 'Support for Environmental Management of Iraqi Marshlands' project in 2004 to help restore this valuable ecosystem and provide clean drinking water for up to 100,000 people living in or near the marshlands.
The project focused on facilitating strategy formulation, monitoring marsh conditions, raising capacity of Iraqi decision makers, and providing water, sanitation, and wetland management options on a pilot basis.
It enjoyed striking success - with some areas of the marshlands recovering to pre-1970s levels around two years after the launch of the project. Satellite images of the ecosystem revealed a rapid increase in water and vegetation cover.
The IETC is part of UNEP's Division of Technology, Industry, and Economics.