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close this bookWater for Urban Areas (UNU, 2000, 243 p.)
close this folder3. Water quality management issues in the Kansai Metropolitan Region
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe Kansai Metropolitan Region
Open this folder and view contentsThe water resources in the region
Open this folder and view contentsWater metabolism of the region
Open this folder and view contentsWater quality issues in the Kansai Metropolitan Region
Open this folder and view contentsSummary and emerging issues
View the documentConcluding remarks

The Kansai Metropolitan Region

The Kansai Metropolitan Region includes such major cities as Osaka (with a population of 2.64 million), Kyoto (1.50 million), and Kobe (1.41 million) and many surrounding municipalities, including some medium-sized cities such as Otsu, Nara, and Wakayama. It boasts the third-largest industrial output in Japan, amounting to 40.5 trillion yen (in 1990) or about 12.4 per cent of the total domestic product.

Throughout history, Osaka has been known as a merchant city and also as a place where many new businesses sprout. Although much of the city was destroyed during the Second World War, it made a rapid recovery and achieved remarkable industrialization in post-war decades. The industrial complexes extending south as well as west along the Osaka Bay coastline formed what is called the Hanshin Industrial Complex. At the same time, a large number of small-scale manufacturing industries have sprung up in the mixed residential and commercial districts within the city as well as in the suburban regions, resulting in uncontrolled urban and semi-urban growth into the surrounding regions. Such patterns of development are said to have caused the disappearance of the once extensive canal network around the Bay which was used for shipping commodities up through the Yodo River, the reason for Osaka having once been called the Venice of the Orient.

Kyoto, the ancient capital city, has been endowed with many cultural and scenic assets throughout history. It has the highest concentration of temples and shrines in Japan, which are major tourist attractions. The city, however, had been constrained by its water resources, and industrialization of the city in the late nineteenth century lagged far behind that of downstream Osaka. Prompted by this observation, the governor at the time initiated a study on the construction of a canal to link the city with Lake Biwa, which was completed in 1891. Kyoto began to regain its economic strength and was able to develop various manufacturing industries other than the traditional kimono textile and sake (rice wine) industries. Since the construction of the canal, Kyoto has never experienced serious water shortages.

Kobe, a port city some 30 km or so west of Osaka, has thrived because of its role as a major port for international trade. However, it is extremely constrained in terms of space because it is situated on a strip of coastal land backed by a range of plateau land. The city has undergone tremendous transformation in recent decades through the reclamation of its coastal shallows. Some major steel producers and ship builders once dominated the industrial structure of the area, but there is now a fairly significant number of small to medium manufacturers of low-cost household goods. Yodo River water transported from Osaka helped to sustain the population and industry. An earthquake in January 1995, however, devastated the city and much of its infrastructure, including its industrial facilities. The city is now mobilizing every available resource to recover from the damage and to reconstruct the whole of the metropolitan system, including water and wastewater facilities.

Around and between these great cities lie many small municipalities, whose boundaries are hardly noticeable owing to widespread urban development. Many industries that used to operate within the inner metropolitan districts have been relocated steadily since the war to the outer districts, resulting in the creation of these new municipalities with growing populations. In the Metropolitan Region of Kansai, the management of water, with respect to both quantity and quality, has become extremely important as well as intricate. Each of the three main metropolises has had its own unique problems to overcome and has developed its own unique system of water services. The wastewater from these urban developments has to be collected, treated, and discharged. These discharges, together with urban runoff after rain, find their way into tributary water channels prior to reaching the main watercourse of the Yodo River. In a short stretch of less than 30 km, the discharges and water intakes have to compete before the river water finally reaches Osaka Bay, about which we learn in some detail in the next section.