Prime Minister Abe greatly downplays amount of land needed for US military helipads in Takae
October 4, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
The Ministry of Defense made public at the House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on October 3 that a 162.93-hectare portion of the Northern Training Area (in Higashi and Kunigami Villages), including the additionally provided Ukagawa area, will be developed in connection to the plan for helipad construction. This development will include clearing terrain, building roads to the helipads, and building highways to help with construction work.
During Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s general policy speech on September 26, he mentioned that the return of 4,000 hectares of land constituting a portion of the Northern Training Area will entail relocating helipads comprising 0.96 hectares of land within the existing training area. He probably got 0.96 hectares by calculating the area of six circular helipads with 45-meter diameters, but the actual area that will be developed is 169 times that amount.
The response from House of Representatives member Seiken Akamine of the Communist Party was to request clarification on the basis for estimating that the helipads will comprise 0.96 hectares, and on the actual area of land that will need to be developed for the entire project.
Abe responded that the current number of seven helipads will be reduced to six, the minimum number the U.S. military requires for its operations. He went on to say that the U.S. had requested helipads 75 meters across, but the Japanese government pushed for and got an agreement for a reduction to 45 meters.
Additionally, Abe said that construction of the helipads must take place. In response to local people speaking out with concerns over noise problems, he repeated his claim that the noise does fall within environmental standards, but that the government will continue to investigate the matter and try to reduce the effects.
The helipads themselves will only be 45 meters across, however, there still needs to be a 15 meter deforested band around it to insure that aircraft can land. Akamine claimed that the Japanese government says the helipads will not function without the unobstructed band around them. He went on to criticize the government for downplaying the area of land that will be developed, saying that when it is all added up the helipads will account for four hectares.
(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)
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