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Court orders government to pay 146 million yen in damages for noise pollution at U.S. base


The Naha District Court on June 26 ordered the government to pay about 146 million yen to the residents near the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in compensation for the extensive noise pollution.


The ruling was the first on noise pollution caused by sonic booms at the U.S. Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City, Okinawa Prefecture.


About 396 residents living near the U.S. Air Station Futenma filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government, demanding compensation for noise pollution caused by U.S. military helicopters and aircraft and a halt to early morning and nighttime flights.


Presiding Judge Kawai Yoshimitsu said that plaintiffs living in the area are disturbed by sonic booms with noise levels 75 and 80 on the Weighted Equivalent Continuous Perceived Noise Level Index. He acknowledged that this violation of the residentsf basic rights is associated with the fact that Japan provides

 the Futenma base to the U.S. military.


The index defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization is an international gauge to measure the effect of aircraft noise on peoplefs lives.


Referring to the incident in which a U.S. helicopter crashed on the campus of Okinawa International University in 2004, the ruling acknowledged that the danger of a possible aircraft crash has increased residentsf uneasiness.


The court turned down the plaintiffsf strong demand that the court order a halt to early morning and nighttime flights.


The ruling denied that a low-frequency sound caused by helicopter results any common physical damage to the residents and that the government has no obligation to take steps to reduce or to prevent noise pollution.


After the court order was issued, the plaintiffsf leader Shimada Zenji said to reporters, gI can only give it a 30 mark our of a possible 100h because the ruling recognized noise pollution at the Futenma Air Station, but stopped short of granting an injunction against early morning and night-time flights.

? Akahata, June 27, 2008


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