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How can Japan host COP10 while promoting base construction?

Okinawa, Japanfs southernmost islands, is the home of a large diversity of rare species of flora and fauna. The very existence of Okinawafs rich natural environment is now being threatened by the realignment of the U.S. forces stationed there. The Japanese governmentfs responsibility is called into question as the chair of the tenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10), which will open on October 11 in Nagoya City.

Base construction

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government in May agreed with the United States to build a new base in the Henoko district of Okinawafs Nago City as an alternative site for the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station.

On the opening day of the extraordinary Diet session of October 1, Prime Minister Kan Naoto again expressed in his policy speech that he will promote the base relocation plan based on the bilateral agreement on the one hand, and on the other he stated that Japan will gfulfill an important role as the chairh of the COP 10.

In response to his remarks, environmental organizations are raising objections by asking how the Japanese government can play such a role while simultaneously promoting the base construction which destroys biodiversity.

Endangered species

The Henoko sea area is designated by the Okinawa Prefecture as being Rank A in its guidelines for the conservation of the natural environment.

The dugong, a national treasure and an endangered species, inhabits the area, feeding on seagrass, the largest habitat for dugong in Okinawa.

In September 2007, a blue coral reef was discovered in Oura Bay. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which Japan belongs to, lists blue coral as an endangered species. The planned base construction site is only 3 km away from the area where it was discovered.

In its report on research of Henoko and Oura Bay published on September 28, the Nature Conservation Society of Japan stated, gThe Henoko sea area should be conserved as the precious seagrass site preserved for dugongs. Not only the construction of an alternative base but also U.S. military exercises, which could disturb the seagrass habitat, need to be cancelled.h

Kunitoshi Sakurai of Okinawa University criticized Kan as being a hypocrite.

Pointing out that the government representative at a COP 10 preparatory meeting proposed the gconservation of the seagrass site,h he said that Kanfs contradictory stance will not be accepted by Okinawans or the international community.

- Akahata, October 7, 2010

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