In the high economic growth period of 1960s, the city of Kita-Kyushu attained notoriety as a "dead" city due to the very high degree of air and sea pollution caused by its petrochemical and other heavy industries. Its effect on human and other natural species was predictable - for example, many fish species that were found in the adjacent Dokaiwan Bay disappeared.
This negative image created an inhibiting image for the city, discouraging investments and visitors to the city. In the late 60s, the City government initiated a series of measures to turn this negative image around. Citizens, businesses and the city government joined together to try to find solutions to the problems. Specifically, the government and businesses in the city raised US$ 8 million to control the sources of pollution. Several charters were promulgated to stop polluting industries and businesses. Improved anti-pollution technologies were developed and its use encouraged. At the city level, a comprehensive plan against pollution was developed which incorporated land use, infrastructure, and other provisions.
The intensive activities related to pollution control started to pay off, and by 1975, it was declared that the air and water pollution problems of Kitakyushu were overcome. However, the image of pollution in the city still persisted in the minds of the people, which was seen as an obstruction for the inflow of investments and new developments. Thus, the city followed up the pollution measures with an information campaign that highlighted the positive effects, and the positive steps taken by the city. Environmental specialists recommended Kitakyushu as an example of overcoming pollution problems. OECD hailed the success of the city by transforming itself from a 'dark city' to a 'green city'. The skies of the city was designated as 'clear' by the Environment Agency of Japan.
Kitakyushu finally received the recognition that was due to it for having turned its environmental problems around. However, it did not stop at this recognition. In an effort to prevent other cities in Japan and worldwide from facing similar problems and repeating the same mistakes, the Kitakyushu government set up an International Cooperative Foundation in order to transfer technology and experience which it had accumulated during the struggle to solve its environmental problems in the 60s. It particularly focussed on cities in developing countries. In 1986, it opened industrial environment programmes, where business, academic professionals, as well as city administrators gave lectures on the environment and transfer of technology and experience to professionals in developing countries.
By 1992, in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), more than 922 trainees from 69 countries were trained. The name of the Foundation was changed to "International Techno-Cooperative Association" to promote cooperation more effectively and target on technological aspects. The core of this association was an Environmental Cooperation Center, which dispatched professional to developing countries for consultancy work and research in appropriate technology. It has trained 247 trainees from 43 countries. Linking this transfer of knowledge with Japan's overseas development aid policies has also been unique. Kitakyushu cooperated with the city of Dairen in China to develop a plan which harmonized environmental concerns and economic pressures. With China's national government designating Dairen as a 'model case', a request was made to the Japanese national government to assist replication of the model in other cities.
The key lessons learnt from the Kitakyushu example is the methodology adopted in turning a negative asset - rampant pollution, into an asset and transferring the knowledge gained to other countries. The strong position of decentralized decision-making processes that were put in place contributed to the success of the process. Women's association, with the health of their families in mind, stood up to regain the 'blue skies' of Kitakyushu. They cooperated with institutions to conduct research and make proposals to factories and city governments. Thus the key ingredients of a working anti-pollution strategy with universal applicability can be seen: appropriate and non-polluting technology, active community participation, and cooperation among businesses and local governments.