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New Ishigaki Airport site row continues

Date Posted: 1998-04-25

Argument over the location of a new airport in Ishigaki Island has been going on for years. In the latest development the New Ishigaki Airport Policy Committee handed down a decision to locate the airport at Miyara-Makinaka. The committee is scheduled to hold a special meeting Friday, to explain its decision. Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota is scheduled to attend the meeting and then make a final decision on the matter.

According Okinawa Prefecture Forest Construction Section Director Koichi Uehara, the committee come to its decision after long and careful consideration. "We have investigated this proposal very carefully for a long time, and have come to a conclusion that from technical and environmental reasons there are no problems. Now we have to gain the acceptance of the local land owners," Uehara said.

But the landowners are not convinced. "There is no way that we can agree to this decision. There are many animals, rare plants and trees in this area, and many people get their livelihood from it. There are also bad sudden cross-winds in the area, so it's dangerous," a spokesman for the group opposing the construction said.

The construction project first raised a furor when the government announced that it planned to construct the airport on a landfill next to a reef which is the largest live blue coral habitat in the world. That plan was eventually scrapped amidst fierce opposition from the environmental groups and fishermen. The focus was then shifted to a new site, only to run into a fierce opposition by local residents.

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