Plaintiffs claim landfill work for building US base will damage biodiversity of Henoko

April 17, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

The first verbal blows have been struck in a lawsuit challenging Okinawa Governor’s approval of the landfill to build a U.S. air base. On April 16 at the Naha District Court, plaintiffs and local residents asked the court to invalidate Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s approval of the landfill application from the central government for moving U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, Nago.

The plaintiffs claimed that if the government starts the reclamation work, the biological diversity of Oura Bay near Henoko will be lost, and their peaceful lifestyle and work environment will be adversely affected. To counter these complaints, the defendant, the Okinawa Prefectural Government, sought dismissal of the case, arguing the governor’s decision is not subject to an administrative lawsuit and the plaintiffs are not qualified to file a lawsuit.

Takahiro Nakanishi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, stated, “It is abnormal that the U.S. military bases are concentrated in Okinawa. The government is not allowed to destroy the rich nature of Henoko because the need to build the base is negative rather than zero.” Hiroshi Ashitomi, the leader of the plaintiffs asserted that the government must cancel the relocation plan, claiming that Churaumi (beautiful sea in Okinawan dialect) should not be transformed into a military base, which he alleged was intended for war and murder. Michiru Sakai, a 40-year-old plaintiff who runs the ecotourism business in Nago, argued, “The expansion of a U.S. base will not lead to creating a rich and peaceful life; it will destroy the natural ecosystems for the convenience of human beings.”

The plaintiffs claimed landfill work and a new base would adversely affect the living conditions of local people by damaging fisheries, and causing noise pollution that could harm people’s physical health and wellbeing. The plaintiffs alleged that the enforcement of the governor’s approval of the landfill should be suspended, because there is an urgent need to avoid serious damage. The defendant asked for the dismissal of the complaint, alleging that the landfill will not result in serious damage.

The Okinawa Prefectural Government alleged the decision to reclaim any public waterway or coastal area should be left up to the judgment of the central government. Shunji Miyake, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, criticized the Okinawa Prefectural Government, saying, “Their allegation is that they must follow the decision of the central government. This means that they are willing to abandon the local autonomy.”

The next session will be held in the Naha District Court at 2:00 p.m. on July 2.

(English translation by T&CT)

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