Home FeaturedHighlight The Water Level of “Lake Biwa” in Japan has Dropped, Which May Cause a Water shortage in the Kansai Region

The Water Level of “Lake Biwa” in Japan has Dropped, Which May Cause a Water shortage in the Kansai Region

by Amélie Poulain

Japan’s largest freshwater lake “Lake Biwa” has been affected by drought and a drastic drop in rainfall in the Kinki region in the past six months, and the lake level has continued to drop. The drop in water levels has changed the lake’s landscape and affected the livelihoods of surrounding fishermen. If the water level continues to drop, it may trigger a water shortage crisis in the Kansai region.

Due to the decrease in rainfall, the sandbanks in Lake Biwa have emerged from the water, creating a unique spectacle. (Photo via unsplash.com)

TAIPEI, TAIWAN (Merxwire) – Japan’s largest freshwater lake “Lake Biwa” has been affected by drought and a significant decrease in rainfall in the Kinki region in the past six months, and the water level has continued to drop. According to the latest observation data from the hydrology and water quality database of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism in Japan, the water level has dropped by 73 centimeters from the base level. Compared with the average water level in the same period in the past, it has dropped by 30 centimeters. As a result, many strange scenes have appeared on the lakeshore. It also affected the livelihood of surrounding fishermen and attracted attention from the outside world.

The most mentioned sight is the small island “Okunoshu” in the middle of the lake, which can be reached on foot after the water level drops. This island was originally about 200 meters away from the lake shore and required a boat to reach it. Because the water level has dropped significantly, the sandbar connecting the island to the mainland has surfaced, and people can walk to the island. This unique scenery is called the Japanese version of “Mont Saint-Michel” and attracts many tourists to visit.

Such spectacles have also occurred in the past. According to records, when the water level of Lake Biwa drops to 50 to 60 centimeters, a “phantom road” will appear between the shore of Lake Biwa and Okunoshu, allowing people to walk there. The Way of Fantasy appeared in 1986, 1994, and 2020. The water levels at that time were 84 centimeters, 88 centimeters, and 69 centimeters below the average water level respectively. Since there is a reed protection area in front of the island, although it is not prohibited, the local government still reminds the public not to step on the reeds.

In addition, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the famous Japanese military commander during the Warring States Period, built Nagahama Castle on the shores of Lake Biwa. The “Taiko Well” in the city was discovered during the dry season in 1939, and a stone monument was erected to mark it. Under normal water levels, Taige Well and the stone monument are inaccessible directly across the lake. But after the water level drops, tourists can still walk there. At the “Mangetsu-ji Temple” on Lake Biwa, after the water level dropped, the pillars of the Buddhist hall were also exposed to the water. Monks from nearby monasteries believe that the scenery in the lake has completely changed.

The ecological chain of Lake Biwa is quite rich, with more than a thousand species of animals and plants growing in it. There are approximately 46 species of fish, 40 species of shellfish, and 70 species of aquatic plants, making it known as Japan’s treasure house of freshwater fish. The cultured fisheries and freshwater pearl cultivation along the coast are famous. However, the drop in water level caused the lake to become stagnant in some areas, and the nutrients and oxygen in the water were greatly reduced, causing the death of more than two-thirds of the clams. The fishermen are suffering terribly, and people’s livelihoods and economy are greatly affected.

Lake Biwa is also the most important source of water supply for the Kansai region. If the water level continues to decline,
they will face a water shortage crisis. (Photo via unsplash.com)

This largest freshwater lake in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, has abundant water and therefore shoulders the water needs of people in the Keihanshin area. Approximately 70% of people’s daily water supply in the Kansai region relies on Lake Biwa. Approximately 14.5 million people in Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, and Shiga need sufficient water from this large lake for daily water use, farmland irrigation, and hydropower generation. Therefore, if there is insufficient water and the water level continues to decline, it will not only affect the local landscape changes but also cause setbacks for agriculture and fishery. A water shortage crisis may occur in the Kansai region.

Japanese officials stated that they will continue to pay attention to the water situation of Lake Biwa and will issue a water conservation announcement if the water level is 75 centimeters lower than the average water level. When the water level is below 90 centimeters, control measures may be taken to limit the amount of water pumped by the water purification plant to avoid triggering subsequent water shortage storms. But what is worrying is that this phenomenon highlights the increasingly serious environmental change problems caused by climate anomalies. Therefore, all countries around the world must take more active actions to reduce environmental damage and reduce the backlash of the earth.

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