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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 January 23 - 29  > U.S. government ordered to research effects of Okinawa’s base construction on dugongs
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2008 January 23 - 29 TOP3 [US FORCES]

U.S. government ordered to research effects of Okinawa’s base construction on dugongs

January 27, 2008
“The Japanese government is also pressed to review its own environmental impact assessment study. The government must immediately stop its preliminary survey for construction of the new U.S. base,” said the secretary general of the Save the Dugong Foundation.

The U.S. Federal District Court in San Francisco has ordered the Defense Department to research the possible impact of the new U.S. base construction in Okinawa on dugongs, an endangered mammal.

On January 24, the court supported Japanese and U.S. environmental groups, plaintiffs who argued that the U.S. government is violating the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by failing to study how the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station to the sea off the Henoko district of Okinawa’s Nago City would affect the habitat of dugongs.

It is the first time that that the U.S. NHPA has been applied overseas.

The judge said that the NHPA can be applied to this case because the base construction in Okinawa is U.S. project led by the Defense Department and has a possibility of harming dugongs which are listed as one of Japan’s Cultural Properties.

It required the Defense Department to submit within 90 days its plan to carry out an assessment of the environmental impact that the base construction would have on the endangered mammal.

Higashionna Takuma, secretary general of the Save the Dugong Foundation, said, “This ruling is very encouraging. With this, the U.S. government is obliged to independently conduct an environmental impact assessment study. The Japanese government is also pressed to review its own environmental impact assessment study. The government has already begun the preliminary survey for construction of the new U.S. base. It must immediately stop the survey. We will use the ruling to press Japanese Dietmembers to protect dugongs and request U.S. lawmakers to further discuss this issue.”

WWF Japan, which is campaigning for the conservation of dugongs, issued a comment stating that it is a “landmark ruling that recognizes the planned construction’s negative impact on the rare species and orders the U.S. government to take necessary measures.” It demands that the Japanese and U.S. governments conduct a “scientific environment assessment that includes presenting an option to halt the base construction.”

In the sea off Henoko and Oura Bay in Nago City, the earmarked site for the base construction, seagrass beds that are the feeding grounds of dugongs are concentrated.

Coral reefs are located in Oura Bay where a yard for the base construction is planned to be built.

The dugong has been listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as well as the Japan Fisheries Resources Conservation Association. It also registered as a Cultural Property based on Japan’s Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties in 1972.
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