The victims of Minamata disease, one of Japan’s biggest pollution-related killers, are seeking to be included in the UNESCO Memory of World listing as they believe the world needs to hear the story of their pain and suffering so it will not happen again. May 1 commemorates the 58th anniversary when the disease was formally recognized by the government as Minamata disease.
To commemorate this year’s anniversary, the members of the Storytellers Organization officially handed over their petition for inclusion in the UNESCO listing to Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara and Kumamoto Governor Ikuo Kabashima. A commemorative ceremony was also held at the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum earlier that day. According to Masami Ogata, president of the Storytellers Organization, preserving the documents, pictures and stories of the victims and their families is the first step towards trying to prevent the “recurrence of disastrous environmental pollution.” He also said that if the world learns about everything they have suffered due to the disease, then the pain they endured may have had more value.
A research firm that the museum hired to look for more materials about the disease and its victim found that there are hundreds of thousands of materials that are still out there, including judicial records, patient health records, administrative documents. They were found with the Kumamoto University, Kumamoto Gakuen University, various photographers and the victims themselves. The Storytellers Organization believe that all these materials have to be sorted and catalogued because there is a huge risk that they will be lost as time goes by. Inclusion in the list can also help make further studies into the prevention of mercury poisoning and pressure authorities to preserve records that are relevant to the disease.
In October of last year, the Minamata Convention on Mercury was adopted by several countries and helped regulate the use, export and import of mercury. The disease is a neurological disorder that was caused by large discharges of mercury into the Minamata Bay by a Chisso Corp. plant. The government has officially recognized more than 2,000 people who suffer from the disease, whose symptoms include numbness and eyesight problems.
[ via Asahi ]