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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 July 14 - 27  > Okinawa’s forest tainted with massive amounts of US military-related trash to become World Heritage site
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2021 July 14 - 27 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Okinawa’s forest tainted with massive amounts of US military-related trash to become World Heritage site

July 27, 2021

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on July 26 decided to add the northern forest of Okinawa, where massive amounts of rubbish were left by the U.S. military, to the list of World Natural Heritage sites.

Together with Okinawa’s northern forest, UNESCO will register Amami Oshima and Tokunoshima islands in Kagoshima Prefecture and Okinawa’s Iriomote Island in the World Heritage list in the name of the “Amami-Ryukyu Area”. The rich biodiversity of these areas symbolized by many rare species of flora and fauna was highly evaluated.

The northern part of Okinawa’s mainland is called “Yanbaru”, famous for its sub-tropical forest, and hosts the U.S. Jungle Warfare Training Center (the Northern Training Area). The to-be World Heritage site in this area covers the land area which was returned to Japan that was used as the warfare training field.

In the former training field, massive amounts of rubbish left by the U.S. military, such as bullets and field ration packages, were found by a butterfly researcher, Miyagi Akino. The national government also admitted that since 2018, it spent about 500 million yen to dispose of about 15,000 rounds of blank ammunition, steel plates, and other U.S. military-related waste. These are just the tip of the iceberg.

On top of this, as six helipads were constructed in exchange for returning part of the U.S. military training field, U.S. military helicopters and MV22 Ospreys assigned to the Kadena and Futenma bases frequently conduct flight training exercises over the “Yanbaru” forest. This inevitably brings about negative impacts on wild birds, including the endemic pryer's woodpecker.

Past related article:
> New national park in Okinawa highlights incompatibility of US military with wildlife conservation [September 16, 2016]

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