State, Tokyo government, and expressway public corporation held responsible for air pollution

In a landmark ruling the Tokyo District Court on October 29 ordered the central and Tokyo governments and the Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation to pay a total of 79.2 million yen in compensation to air pollution victims.

"The ruling is epoch-making in that it held the state, the expressway public corporation, and the Tokyo government responsible and went so far as to recognize the need to aid those who have asthma which has not been recognized as caused by motor vehicle emissions," plaintiffs' lawyers said in a statement.

It was Japan's first air pollution lawsuit to name automakers as defendants. However, in the court ruling the automobile makers were not found liable for the air pollution and the respiratory problems.

The lawsuit had been filed by 99 plaintiffs, including asthma sufferers and families of victims in Tokyo, who complained that the disease was caused by vehicle gas emissions. They demanded that the state, the Tokyo Government, the expressway public corporation, and seven carmakers pay 2 billion yen (16 million dollars) in compensation and that vehicle gas emission be controlled.

The ruling stated that the three organizations in charge of regulating expressways have failed to take effective and appropriate steps to prevent health hazards to adjacent residents from car gas emissions, and ordered the three to pay 7.9 million yen (64,200 dollars) in compensation.

This is the fifth environmental pollution lawsuit since 1995 in which the central government lost the case.

Although the court recognized a clear cause-and-effect relationship between diesel car emissions and asthma, it rejected the plaintiffs' call for a ban on emissions.

Iwasa Emi, Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Councilors, commented that the JCP will make further efforts to seek effective steps to relieve victims and prevent air pollution. (end)