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Local divers lead petition for cleaner and safer Sunabe Sea wall

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-06-20

The Sunabe sea wall in Chatan has long been a favorite area for surfers, divers, and others who enjoy the ocean front promenade. The sea wall has also been used by late night revelers in the past. Haphazard construction and bad planning has lead to residential homes being built next to drinking establishments and other night time entertainment businesses. Traffic, noise, and trash became the target of complaints by residents living near the sea wall several years ago, and a campaign to stop people from using the area during the late hours began. The solution was a restriction on parking after 10 pm, which has been strictly enforced through the use of wire cables to block off access to the parking spaces along the wall. Since that time, there has been a reduction in late night disturbances, but there was also a large drop in revenue to the many sea side bars, restaurants, and other shops.

One of the few businesses that has been able to survive is the scuba diving industry. Divers from around Japan are drawn to Sunabe for its underwater population of soft corals. Now, divers along with other organizations are moving to improve the area. Lead by Junichi Ohya of the Okinawa Diving Safety Association, the group is collecting signatures for a petition. The petition contains five main points. The first calls for a city ordinance that would make littering punishable by fine, and also a total ban on all glass containers along the sea wall. The second and third points request the construction of public toilets and showers, while the fourth point asks to increase parking. The final point, which is seen as the most difficult, asks the government to remove the sea jacks, which serve as part of the breaker wall.

"The last four regulations are going to require a budget, but we feel there is a high possibility of getting the city ordinance against litter passed," explained Ohya. The petition system works by first collecting signatures on a clearly stated written request. The signed petitions are then presented to the city hall, where local assemblymen will vote on its content. A simple majority will enable the petition to pass on to the next stage, which is an investigation process on a cost effective method to accomplish the request of the petition.

The case of the Sunabe sea wall will be voted on this month. The Okinawa Diving Safety Association has already presented 1,500 signatures to the Chatan Government. Local divers also helped in the petition campaign, but the largest support will come from the local citizens of the Miyagi area of Sunabe. "The residents of Miyagi are helping by adding 2,000 signatures of their own, which we will also hand over to the Chatan City Government," said Ohya.

The group is also looking for ideas on more cost effective measures to stop the problem of trash building up in between the sea jacks along the outside of the sea wall. "To change the entire sea wall again would cost much money, and it would involve heavy construction that would cause the water to become silted. Instead we are looking for different ideas," mentioned Ohya. The group is interested in hearing about any innovative methods that could help solve the problem. Those interested in contributing any ideas or participating in the petition campaign can send a fax to 965-5371.

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