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Awase project’s necessity called in question

Date Posted: 2001-06-22

In regards to the reclamation project of the Awase tideland, Okinawa Times newspaper has demanded that prefectural officials disclose the contents of the written file that was submitted to the governor by Okinawa General Bureau, in order to explain why the reclamation project is necessary.

According to sources familiar with the file, planners assumed that the site would become the center of six hotel facilities. The hotels would provide 1,275 rooms. The planners estimated the average length of stay for visitors would be 5.27 nights. Critics of the plan claim that the planners used research made during the bubble era as the basic material. They also claim that planners and project promoters exaggerated the need to find a disposal site for soil that is dredged from the near-by Awase port project, and question whether there is an emergency need to find a dumping ground for the soil at all.

The file consisting of 135 pages was attached to the application of the project plan that was submitted to Prefectural officials in May 2000. The governor gave his approval to the plan Dec. 19 last year.

The file reportedly estimates the total number of tourists visiting Okinawa to be more than six million per year in the future. Critics say that such a big increase could be unrealistic considering that currently 4.5 million tourists visit each year. What more, the average length of stay has decreased recently, and current statistics show that an average visitor stays only 2.7 nights.

Tetsu Kohama, a professor of tourism at Meio University, states that it is extremely difficult to realize the prediction. He says that the file does not mention anything about managing those hotel facilities. He claims that the whole plan only focuses on the importance of finding a site to dispose soil from the port construction site. “Judging from the reasons mentioned in the file; the adequate distance from the dredging site to transport and dump soil, the possibility that both the reclamation and port construction projects could be done simultaneously bringing huge potential profits to participating construction companies, seems to be the main reason for pushing this project through,” Professor Kohama says..

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