Japanese government ordered to pay 754 million yen compensation for Futenma noise pollution
June 12, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo
On June 11, in a lawsuit filed against the Japanese government by 2,178 citizens living near Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, the Naha District Court Okinawa Branch (Chief Justice: Tetsuya Fujikura) ordered the government to pay a total of approximately 754 million yen in compensation. The plaintiffs had filed for a total of approximately 1,010,450,000 yen in compensation for damages from noise pollution coming from the air station.
Justice Akira Hikage’s ruling, read by Justice Fujikura, was as follows: “The noise damage suffered by the plaintiffs is severe and extensive. It cannot be judged to be of a level that they can tolerate. The damage suffered by the plaintiffs cannot be viewed as something they must tolerate merely because of the public nature of MCAS Futenma’s operations.”
Regarding the ruling, Governor Takeshi Onaga told the press: “Most law suits over noise, accidents, and incidents suffered by Okinawa have been dismissed by the courts. It is significant that the damage caused by noise pollution was acknowledged.”
The court ruled that residents in areas where the WECPNL (Weighted Equivalent Continuous Perceived Noise Level) value is 75-80 should receive 150 yen per day in compensation, while residents in areas where the WECPNL value is 80-85 should receive 300 yen per day. However, no compensation was ordered for residents in areas where the WECPNL value is less than 75, or for residents claiming psychological distress caused by low-frequency noise.
Yasutaro Yakabi, head of the plaintiffs’ group, stated, “Because we have long desired the prompt relocation of Futenma Air Station, we are very glad that the court recognized the damage caused by noise pollution. I imagine it will have a strong impact on the government.” Hideo Miyaguni, head of the group of lawyers representing the plaintiffs, emphasized the significance of the ruling, stating, “It is very meaningful for residents that the government is being confronted with the fact that this is illegal.”
The lawsuit was previously unsuccessful, with residents filing against the Japanese government and the base commander, seeking to stop noise from the base as well as stop its flight activities. In 2010, the Naha Branch of the Fukuoka High Court ordered the government to pay compensation for illegal noise damage to the plaintiffs, but it dismissed their demand to stop the flight activities. An appeals court ruled that residents in areas with a WECPNL value of 75-80 should receive daily compensation of 200 yen, while those in areas with a WECPNL value of 80-85 should receive daily compensation of 400 yen. The lawyers who worked on the recent case claimed that the compensation amount ordered in the previous case was likely based on the results of similar trials that were held in other prefectures.
The plaintiffs demanded “the immediate and total closure of MCAS Futenma in order to allow residents in the area to return to a dignified life in a quiet, peaceful environment.”
They did not demand the prohibition of early morning and late night flights.
The government claimed that it was necessary for each individual plaintiff to specify the details of and provide evidence for the damage they were suffering.
(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)
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