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11/27/2013

Shiga Prefecture to track foreign capital purchasing forests in water resource areas

As concerns over foreign capital purchasing forests in water source areas are spreading through the nation, Shiga is to be the first prefecture in the Kinki region to introduce a prior notification system to track purchase and sale of forests. Although the new system doesn't give the Shiga Prefectural Government (SPG) the power to ban the purchase and sale, it will enable SPG to get a grip on the situation and to restrain questionable land acquisition and disorderly deforestation.

The existing national laws such as National Land Utilization Law and Forest Law require purchasers to report to local municipalities after they acquire forests. However, there is no system to comprehend the situation beforehand.

The new notification system is designed to specify which forests need to be preserved, and to require the owners to notify SPG before they sell their property, making it possible for both the prefecture and local municipalities to share information about sellers, buyers, size of land, and the objectives.

SPG plans to spend one year to examine details such as possibilities of introducing penal regulations to the system as well as referring to other eleven prefectures which have introduced similar systems. The new system is expected to go into effect in FY 2015.

According to Forestry Agency, there are 68 cases of foreign corporations or individuals who purchased forests in 8 prefectures from 2006 to 2012, including the one that a China-based company purchased 81 hectares in Hokkaido. The total area is 801 hectares, but purposes of utilization were unclear in some cases. No case has been reported in Shiga so far.

(Kyoto Shimbun, November 15, 2013)

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