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Dr. Tetsu Nakamura was at the forefront of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We look back on the trajectory and achievements of his activities.

Updated:2020年12月18日更新 print

中村医師が語り掛ける様子

 In December 2019, Dr. Tetsu Nakamura (then 73 years old) was fatally shot while conducting humanitarian assistance activities in Afghanistan. Dr. Nakamura began medical treatment for Hansen's disease patients in Pakistan in 1984 with the support of the Peshawar-kai,*1 of which he became the local representative. In 1998, he established PMS*2 to provide medical treatment for refugees who escaped the civil war. After that, he opened a total of 11 clinics in Pakistan and Afghanistan, devoting himself to medical activities in areas where medical services had been lacking. In 2000, after the great drought in Afghanistan, an agricultural country, PMS started a irrigation project to dig wells and construct irrigation canals. PMS restored deserted tracts of agricultural land one after another, thereby greening a desert called “Death Valley” and accomplishing the Green Ground Project*3 to revive rural areas. The dedication and achievements of Dr. Nakamura, who adhered to a motto of "reaching out to those in need," still continue to impress and influence many people throughout Japan and in the regions where he had been engaged in these activities.

 "Dr. Nakamura had always valued ‘showing with actions,’" says Mr. Tetsuya Tokunaga, former president of the Yamada Weir Land Improvement Zone in Asakura City. Dr. Nakamura, who had already started construction of the Marwarid Irrigation Canal in Afghanistan, focused on Yamada Weir*4 as a model for constructing intake weirs. When Dr. Nakamura visited Yamada Weir in 2009, Mr. Tokunaga received him, and they subsequently deepened their friendship. In April 2019, Mr. Tokunaga visited Afghanistan, which was his long-held desire. During his stay, he spent about two weeks with Dr. Nakamura, teaching local people how to prune mandarin orange trees by making use of his experience as a farmer.

 "When I first met Dr. Nakamura, he saw the structure of Yamada Weir, which had been built in the Edo era when there was no surveying technology or heavy machinery, and praised it by saying, "This should be spread to the world." I still remember his face at that time. When I saw an intake weir in Afghanistan, completed after a construction period of as long as seven years, looking exactly like Yamada Weir, I found myself close to tears,” says Mr. Tokunaga while recalling his memories.

 Marwarid Canal, which took seven years to reach a total length of 25 km (currently 27 km), supports the lives of 650,000 people, contributing to the restoration of lost rural culture. "It is impossible for an average person to accomplish such a big project. Dr. Nakamura's philosophy is based on thoughts of "What is peace?" and "For the next generation," as well as his respect for nature expressed as: "How we should interact and harmonize with nature" — all of which are still alive in the activities and projects he left. He frequently said, "It is most important for everyone to be able to have three meals a day and live together with their family," says Mr. Tokunaga.

 Mr. Tokunaga says that he will devote himself to local technical guidance and development of farming implements to support the continuation and development of the Green Ground Project. Those who have inherited Dr. Nakamura's legacy are holding hands and moving forward.
 In January 2020, the Fukuoka Prefectural Government presented the Fukuoka Prefectural Citizen's Honor Award in recognition of Dr. Nakamura's achievements.

 

Dr. Nakamura's activity trajectory
1946  Born in Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture. After graduating from Kyushu University School of Medicine in 1973, worked at a hospital in Japan.
1984  Moved to Peshawar Mission Hospital in Pakistan. Engaged in medical care for Hansen's disease patients.
1991  Peshawar-kai opened its first clinic in Afghanistan.
2000  In response to the drought that had been worsening since the 1970s, started an irrigation project as an emergency measure to secure a water source.
2010  Completed Abe-e-Marwarid Canal, which means "water of pearls." At the same time, built a mosque, which serves as a source of emotional support for local people, and a madrasa (Islamic seminary).
2019  Received an honorary citizenship certificate from the Afghan Government in recognition of his many years of medical support and guidance on irrigation projects. The total area of agricultural land moistened by the irrigation canals in which Dr. Nakamura was involved is about 16,500 hectares (equivalent to about half of the total area of Fukuoka City).
 In December, he was fatally shot while on his way to a work site.

*1 Peshawar-kai: An international NGO formed in September 1983 to support Dr. Tetsu Nakamura's medical activities in Pakistan

*2 PMS: An abbreviation for Peace (Japan) Medical Services, a local company of which Dr. Nakamura became director. Currently, it is involved in medical, agricultural and irrigation activities.

*3 Green Ground Project: A project that began in 2002 to revive rural areas in eastern Afghanistan. While proceeding with land clearing, various activities, such as cultivation of rice, wheat and fruits, beekeeping, and livestock, are attempted.

*4 Yamada Weir: An intake weir built in the Edo era to save farmers suffering from drought. It is still in use today after 230 years.

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