OPG calls for an environmental assessment of Ospreys in NTA land reclamation plan

November 17, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

On November 16, the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) submitted a written statement of opinion to the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) regarding the plans for returning more than half of the Northern Training Area (NTA) back to Higashi and Kunigami Villages. The statement involved 33 demands, such as the thorough removal of contaminated soil and unexploded bombs. It also calls for another Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) specifically on the U.S. Marine Corps transport aircraft MV-22 Osprey, in relation to the U.S. helicopter landing zone, or helipad, currently being built in the NTA. Moreover, one of the demands involves the withdrawal of Ospreys via an early reassignment to prefectures outside of Okinawa. For the OPG to mention the continued operations of U.S. bases while also discussing the plans to return the land back to Okinawa is unprecedented.

The written statement of opinion was dated November 15. It mentions the statement regarding the use of defoliants by ex-servicemen. Because of this, a representative of the OPG demands, “Defining ‘surrounding areas’ as much as possible and conducting a general investigation on dioxins.”

Another demand involves the swift submission of an investigative report compiling the flight training records from the U.S. military and interviews with ex-workers of the military.

The land reclamation plan does not specify how to determine the area of contamination or how to remove the contamination. Because of this, the representative demands, “Upon investigating the contamination status of the soil and water, a concrete investigation must be conducted, along with measures to remove possible obstacles. The plans must be adjusted after consulting the OPG etc. Only then can [the plan] be executed.”

The land that is planned to be returned includes a drainage basin, such as the Fukuji Dam. Because of this, the representative demands, “If detected, appropriate measures must be taken to remove the contamination, and to avoid affecting the soil and water quality of the surrounding areas into the future.”

After receiving the written statement of opinion from the OPG, along with Higashi and Kunigami Villages, the ODB is to notify the OPG etc. after they have come up with a land reclamation plan. At earliest, it will be handed over to the land owners by December 2017.

Outline of the governor’s opinion

•Thorough removal of contaminated soil and unexploded bombs before returning land.
•Submit report compiling the records on land use and interviews with those involved.
•Conduct a general investigation on dioxins based on interviews.
•Avoid affecting soil and water quality of the surrounding areas of the dam and drainage basin.
•It will be the country’s responsibility to take care of any unexploded bombs or buried waste discovered after the land has been returned.
•Conduct another Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) specifically on Ospreys in relation to the helipad currently being built.
•Remove Ospreys.

(English translation by T&TC and Chelsea Ashimine)

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