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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 September 10 - 16  > Reclamation work at Henoko will damage natural environment
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2014 September 10 - 16 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Reclamation work at Henoko will damage natural environment

September 13, 2014
While the Abe government is pushing forward with reclamation work for the construction of a new U.S. base in Okinawa’s Henoko district, environmental activists are raising concerns over possible damage to natural environments.

The government plans to reclaim land for the military base from the sea area off Henoko with 20.62 million cubic meters of debris, earth, and sand.

Around 80% of landfill materials are debris, and about 50% of the debris will be carried in from 13 locations outside of Okinawa such as the Kyushu and Setouchi regions.

A citizens’ group, which is working to protect the natural environment in Setouchi, in December last year submitted a petition calling for a halt to the Henoko landfill work to the Defense Ministry and Okinawa Prefectural government, claiming that debris quarrying in the area is unacceptable as it will destroy the natural landscape.

Abe Mariko of the Nature Conservation Society of Japan, who has been studying the ecosystem of Henoko, pointed to the inconsistency of the central government. She explained that while nominating the northern part of Okinawa’s main island as a candidate site to be designated a World Heritage Site, Tokyo is seeking to collect sand there and reclaim land from the sea area adjacent to the candidate site.

She criticized the state for not requiring an environmental assessment for quarrying on the ground that it will not dig debris but merely purchase it from suppliers.

The environmental expert said that the national government plans to obtain 580,000 cubic meters of sea sand from sea areas around the Okinawa main island. She said that pumping up sand from the seabed will make the water muddy and damage seaweed and that sand transport ships could run over dugongs, an endangered sea animal living there.

She also criticized the prefectural government for selling Okinawan sea rights to military facilities in defiance of its long-term plan to promote tourism.
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