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2013 October 9 - 15 [ENVIRONMENT]

Abe’s ‘Minamata disease eliminated’ remark receives criticism from victims

October 11, 2013
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo in his message at an international conference for a treaty called the Minamata Convention to regulate the use of mercury said that Japan has “recovered from” the mercury pollution, provoking harsh anger from Minamata disease victims.

The Japanese government in July last year stopped accepting applications for compensation from Minamata disease patients and refused to receive their statements in protest. In protest against the decision, 180 sufferers of the disease are waging court battles.

Oishi Toshio, a representative of a patients group, pointed out that compensation for damages caused by mercury pollution has not yet reached a conclusion. PM Abe made the remark with the intent to end all support to the victims, Oishi said.

Japanese Communist Party member of the Kumamoto Prefectural Assembly Matsuoka Toru, who has been working with Minamata disease victims, stated that Abe made the remark without accepting the reality. Matsuoka demanded that the national government conduct comprehensive health checkups on residents in and around Minamata City and establish a system to aid all the victims of mercury pollution. Without that, Japan cannot recover from the effects of the pollution, he added.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury aims to prevent environmental pollution and health damages caused by the use of the toxic material. On October 10, government representatives from 140 countries held a meeting in Minamata City in Kumamoto Prefecture to adopt the convention. The city is known for the Minamata disease which was caused by organic mercury in waste water discharged from a plant of chemical-maker Chisso Corp. According to the United Nations Environment Program which organized the convention, the treaty will take effect in 2016 after completing necessary legal adjustments in member countries.

Past related articles
> Record found indicating Minamata disease also affected people outside Kumamoto [May 29, 2013]
> Top court for first time recognizes woman as Minamata disease sufferer [April 17, 2013]
> Minamata disease victims call for relief without time limitation to submit application [July 4-6, 2012]
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