Field trip gives students first-hand experience of environmental issues

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A group of environmental science students at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University spent a week in Japan gaining valuable onsite experience of environmental remediation and rehabilitation in developed countries.

Led by Dr Zheng Chen, a lecturer in the Department of Environmental Science, a group of six Year Four students and two staff from the department spent a week in Toyama city in Japan.

Toyama is known for an occurrence of mass cadmium poisoning that took place in the area in the 1910s. The disease was dubbed ‘Itai-itai byo’ – literally ‘it hurts-it hurts disease’ – by locals because of the severe pain victims felt in the spine and joints.

Students learnt about the area’s history and the countermeasures that were and continue to be taken to remove the cadmium pollution from contaminated rice paddies.

As well as visiting sites that had been contaminated by cadmium, they also travelled to the University of Toyama, the Toyama Prefectural Itai-itai Disease Museum, the Toyama Prefectural Environmental Science Research Centre and Seiruikaikan, a local victim organisation.

“The field trip was part of the teaching activities for a module on environmental remediation and rehabilitation and was designed to give the students a unique educational experience,” said Dr Chen.

Xiaoyu Shi said the trip helped him gain a better understanding of environmental remediation, the process that deals with the removal of pollution or contaminants from soil, groundwater, sediment, or surface water.

“I was also able to compare the development of environmental science-related industries and activities in the two countries,” he added.

Xiaoyu, who is in the final year of studying BSc Environmental Science, has already received an offer for postgraduate study from Queensland University in Australia and plans to study environmental management.

During the field trip, Professor Katsumi Marumo, from the University of Toyama, and Dr Chen gave on-site lectures on the techniques used for agricultural field remediation in Japan and Hunan Province in China.

“Throughout the visit, students learnt about the process of environmental remediation, from the technical aspects to the social impact,” said Dr Chen.

Dr Chen added that he believed a revolution on environmental protection was happening in China and that learning from developed nations, who faced similar challenges when their economies rapidly developed, was a useful experience for students.

“I think field study in Japan has given students a very special and valuable learning experience,” he added.

The trip was the first overseas field trip for students in the department and Dr Chen said he was impressed by their engagement in the activities and self-discipline during the trip.

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