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Struggle to clean Lake Toya continues (June 22, 2008)

Mini-bike and other waste covered with algae on the bottom of Lake Toya

TOYAKO - A citizen's organization formed by an inhabitant of Iburi Subprefecture's Toyako Town to collect garbage from Lake Toya has asked the government and other organizations for funding to support the effort. Divers cleaned the bottom of the lake for the first time in April to enhance the local environment at the venue of the environment-themed Summit, but a lack of funds has prevented a second attempt.

Yoshihiro Murota is the 41-year-old representative of the UW Clean Lake Toya, which was formed in January and consists of town volunteers. He launched the initiative after seeing a photo of signal crayfish, an invasive alien species, inhabiting a tire that had been dumped in the lake. The creature is known to have a harmful effect on the ecosystem, and the photo, taken on the lake bottom by a photographer acquaintance, was an extraordinary sight.

Mr. Murota obtained a diving license in January as part of preparations started in October last year to establish the organization. He was surprised at the lake's beauty on seeing it for the first time from underwater, which reinforced his determination to preserve its environment. As underwater operations are dangerous, he asked ten well-trained divers to gather garbage in April. Around 135 kilograms of trash was collected, including cans, tires, benches and bicycles. Although the town disposed of the waste, Mr. Murota paid roughly 500,000 yen of his own money to cover the costs of pulling out the garbage, including paying for divers' air tanks and ropes.

The local government and the Ministry of the Environment have not supported the project so far due to financial difficulties. An official from the Muroran District Public Works Management Office that manages the body of water commented that it was difficult to manage the bottom of the lake. Murota disagreed, saying, "Lake Toya is a tourist attraction and a place of residence. This means we must consider the true nature of environmental preservation."

Murota is requesting the support in the belief that Lake Toya can be handed down to subsequent generations simply through efforts to conserve the invisible part of the water. For inquiries, call the office of the Murota Car Maintenance Factory on 0142-75-2034.

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