[Editorial]Nago mayor’s written opinion reveals injustices of Henoko landfill

November 21, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Mayor of Nago has completed his draft statement of opinion on the government plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko in Nago. In many as 23 pages of densely formatted text, one by one, the mayor carefully points out the irrational issues in the reclamation project proposed by the central government. His assertions are both logical and convincing, clearly revealing the injustice of the reclamation plan. By rights, if the Okinawa governor takes this seriously, he will not be able to approve the landfill. If the central government cannot provide logical responses to the mayor’s statement of opinion it should do the decent thing and abandon the plan.

Enormous amount of sediment
His written opinion is clear and every assertion is backed by logic. Suggestions referring to the problem of the large amounts of sediment are the most compelling. Huge amount of sediment, the equivalent in volume to 70 buildings the size of the Okinawa Prefectural Office building, will be put into the beautiful sea of Oura Bay and off the coast of Henoko. Moreover, 80 percent of this sediment will be brought from outside the prefecture. Without a doubt the precious ecosystem in the area will be disturbed by invasive alien species in the sediment. In the landfill application, the Defense Ministry merely wrote that they would adopt measures based on the Invasive Alien Species Act.

Who will check for the contamination by foreign organisms in such a large amount of sand as 17 million cubic meters? How will they do this? This is poorly thought out. As the mayor pointed out in his written opinion, there is no mention of a certificate from the supplier for the control of invasive alien species. We can only conclude that the mayor’s statement that it would be almost impossible to prevent the mixture of invasive alien species is correct.

Article 4-2 of the Public Water Body Reclamation Act states that the landfill should not conflict with the laws or plans of the central and local governments on environmental protection. The government plans to designate Yambaru, including the planned reclamation area, as a World Natural Heritage site. In keeping with that, they must take thorough countermeasures to prevent the entry of alien species. Reclaiming an area of sea with mountains of sediment clearly contradicts this, and so the reclamation conflicts with the plan for World Heritage designation.

In its guidelines for the conservation of the natural environment, the Okinawa Prefectural Government classifies Oura Bay as Rank 1. This ranking requires the strictest standards for preserving the environment, so destroying the area flies in the face of the prefectural government’s own guidelines. The central government wrote in its environmental statement that dugongs do not use these waters and that reclamation would have little affect on animal life there. However, results of a central government survey not open to the public indicate that traces of dugongs having fed on seaweed underwater in this area have been confirmed. The government also did not reveal that sea turtles, an endangered species, come ashore on the beaches of Henoko every year. The government said that they would transplant the sea grass beds, which are food for dugongs, to other places.
However, attempts to do this in the past, using both mechanical means and by hand, have failed. The government has also closed their eyes to the fact that living coral covers 40 percent of the reef in Henoko, while usually the extent of cover is less than 10 percent. Nevertheless, the government has stated that the area was not a favorable habitat for coral.

The mayor points out that the government’s position of hiding inconvenient truths was contrary to the basic principles of environmental impact assessment and it is neither democratic nor scientific. He is right on the mark.

Residents’ safety is top priority
Paragraph 4-1 of Article 4 of the Public Water Body Reclamation Act requires the government to take care to prevent disasters and protect the environment. As we mentioned above, the Henoko landfill plan lacks any desire to give due attention to environmental protection. The mayor also suggested in his statement of opinion that the plan lacks concern for disaster prevention.

As the mayor points out, the government and the U.S. military only revealed the deployment of MV-22 Osprey aircraft at the very end of the process of the evaluation report, at a stage when residents could not provide opinion. To start with, the government suggested a flight zone that is trapezoidal in shape as evidence that the aircraft would not fly over residential areas, but it ended up being oval and so the aircraft will fly over residential areas. The bottom-line is that the government hides the truth, so people cannot believe its promises that the aircraft will operate safely. Noise pollution goes without saying. The mayor insists that going ahead with the landfill would jeopardize the performance of the most important responsibility of local government of ensuring the safety and security of residents. This stance is understandable.

Article 4-1 of the Public Water Body Reclamation Act requires the governor not to approve the landfill application if it is not proper and reasonable use of national land. The plans to move the U.S. Marines to Guam and Australia and the relocation of U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma to Henoko lack consistency. Analysts in Japan and the United States have suggested that both governments should consider other options.

Relocating the Futenma base within the prefecture is not “the only viable solution” that the central government refers to it as. This project is not appropriate. We cannot approve it whatever viewpoint is taken.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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