JGSDF construction resumes in Ishigaki, but local residents voice their concerns

JGSDF construction resumes in Ishigaki, but local residents voice their concerns

The site of the new JGSDF base in Ishigaki

June 11, 2020 by Ryukyu Shimpo

Ishigaki – The Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) resumed construction of a base in the Omata neighborhood of Hirae-Omata, Ishigaki June 10, as part of a larger plan to deploy the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) to the region. On that day, loud construction noises were not heard in the area, however local resident organizations voiced their concern over the decision to re-start construction, as they had requested that construction be suspended until the end of the crested serpent eagle breeding season. The area residents are concerned about the noise generated by construction. It had been confirmed that a crested serpent eagle, a protected species in Japan, had been nesting near the construction area, and construction was suspended May 20.

The ODB has implemented policies such as “temporarily refraining from activities that could create sudden noise such as rock crushing” near the confirmed nesting location, based on expert opinion and in coordination with the city. According to the city’s cultural asset department, after the nest was discovered, the city conferred with two additional local specialists in addition to the ODB’s expert. The specialists confirmed that “The ODB’s policies should reduce the possibility the eagle abandons its nest,” and as a result on June 8 Ishigaki City notified the ODB they would be allowed to resume construction.

Zen Minei, 54, a representative of the Ishigaki city citizen’s liaison council, which opposes the building of a new military base on Ishigaki Island, said, “They should disclose for example who this expert is. Crested serpent eagles have been spotted in a number of locations in the area, and there is much we still do not know. As such, we are still doubtful that these policies are good enough.”

Before the suspension of construction, area residents had complained to the ODB and the city that the noise from breaking up stones was bothering them. Heiji Kobayashi, 58, who runs the community center in Kainan, next to the construction site, said, “It is going to get increasingly hot from here on, but that does not mean we can run the air conditioner all the time. The banging noises of the rock crushing on hot days is fairly unpleasant. There have been no attempts to stifle the noise, or even any data about the noise released, which shows a lack of consideration,” noting his distrust of the ODB.
(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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