(NaturalNews) The devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March caused a nuclear disaster that left high quantities of radioactive cesium and other toxins in the soil in around the Fukushima prefecture. But a recent campaign has been launched by civil servants and independent entrepreneurs who are focusing their efforts on the use of sunflowers to clean contaminants from the fallout zone.
Project leader Shinji Handa explains the long term plan. Sunflower seeds will be sold to citizens and volunteers who will plant them in as many places as possible around the stricken area next year, says Handa. The plants and seeds that grow from the contaminated soil will be gathered and disposed of safely, but meanwhile, they will create a brilliant yellow landscape, a kind of spectacle of hope and healing that will ideally be visible from space. In addition to leaving 23,000 people dead or missing, the earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima power plant, which has been leaking radioactive material for several months. But sunflowers represent a hopeful beacon and a symbol of reconstruction, and as they grow, they help to absorb cesium from the soil. Sunflowers and plants with similar biology were also used in radioactive cleanup efforts after the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine.
So far, more than 10,000 packets of sunflower seeds have been sold to approximately 30,000 people for about $5.70 each. One of the major patrons of the sunflower project has been the city of Yokohama, which will be growing sunflowers in 200 of its parks. Selling the seeds to volunteers who will then take responsibility for planting them provides better opportunities for community involvement than simply accepting donations.
"This is different from donations because people will grow the flowers," says Handa, "and a mother can tell her children that it is like an act of prayer for the reconstruction of the northeast. I also hope the project will give momentum to attract tourists back to Fukushima with sunflower seeds in their hands. I would like to make a maze using sunflowers so that children can play in it."