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Bringing news and protecting rivers for seventeen years

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-05-16

Giving us the true story on many different environmental problems has been the job of OTV's newscaster, Reiko Terada, for the past 17 years. Her special series, focusing on rivers, started in 1981 and still airs every Thursday on the early evening news at 6:25 pm. Her stories are bold, and they get to the bottom of the issues. Her dedication and persistence has been a soar thumb for many government workers at the Prefecture Office, where she is not afraid to ask straight questions.

Terada came to OTV 24 years ago, as a young aspiring news person. She was given the special project on rivers several years later, without having much experience on environmental issues. However, she soon soaked up every piece of information she came across, and quickly became an expert in the field. Her commitment was not limited to just relaying the news to Okinawan citizens either. She also became deeply involved in many volunteer action groups for the preservation and cleaning up of Okinawa's rivers.

"The rivers in Naha were so smelly and dirty. I wondered what could be done to solve the problem," explained Terada. In 1985, she helped to form the "Seiryu Midori Torimodosu Kai", a citizen's action group, whose main goals was to clean up the Kumoji River in Naha. The group met once a month on Sunday and cleaned the banks of the river, but also began to educate the citizens on preventative methods for maintaining cleaner waterways. "In Naha one of the main causes for pollution of most of the city's rivers was household drainage water. We tried to get people not to throw food waste and other solid materials down their kitchen drains. We promoted the use of environmental friendly soaps and detergents, and of course, discouraged any kind of littering in our rivers," further explained Terada.

The group turned their cleanup campaign into a yearly event, called the Kumoji Festival, in 1987. The festival committee continued the clean river campaign through boat races and other activities that were designed to bring citizens out to the river and create more awareness. "At first, everyone thought we were crazy to have a race in such a dirty river," said Terada. The festival however, proved to be a valuable campaign tool, and prompted Naha residents to become more pro-active in cleaning up the river. Many people also began to change their habits concerning what they put down their household kitchen drains.

Ten years later there was a remarkable change in the Kumoji River. "When we first started, the BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) was measured at 60 ppm, but after ten years the number fell to just 7 ppm," said Terada. This showed that the amount of pollutants causing an increase in oxygen absorbing algae was dramatically decreased. The nauseous smell of the river also resided substantially.

Terada is currently trying to work with different groups on trying to restore the natural state of rivers that had their banks cemented through public infrastructure spending. She and her news crew visited Switzerland and Germany, where massive government spending decades earlier also tampered with the natural course of rivers. Both countries have been reversing the process for the last ten years, trying to put back the natural vegetation and direction of their waterways. In both cases, the projects have been highly successful. Using her news program series, Terada was able to bring this knowledge to the people and government of Okinawa. She is also in the process of completing her third video, which is an instructional tool to be used by the Prefecture and engineering companies on "natural" reconstruction of rivers.

Terada's favorite river in Okinawa is the Genka River, located in northern Okinawa. "It is a model for other rivers on the island" said Terada. Through environmental lobbying and government cooperation, the river was made suitable again for the almost extinct "Ryukyu Ayu" fish. Small dams were eliminated, enabling fish to swim up river to reach needed habitats for survival. The local people also were very much involved, and now have a desire to protect their river.

There are now about fifteen to twenty local citizen's groups that are active in cleaning up and protecting Okinawa's waterways. Like Terada, they have all come to realize the need to protect one of our most precious resources - water.

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