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Tokyo proposes Ryukyu Islands become heritage site

Date Posted: 2003-06-01

The Ministry of Environment and the National Forestry Agency are proposing that the whole Ryukyu Archipelago--consisting of Okinawa and all smaller islands in the prefecture, together with Ogasawara Islands, located about 1,000 km south of Tokyo and Shiretogo Archipelago in Hokkaido--be designated World Heritage Nature Sites.

No sooner had the news of the plan been announced on Monday that several people involved in various environmental and business projects in the prefecture gave their blessings to the proposal.

"If the proposal ever becomes true, it would result in great advantages to Okinawa," Okinawa Prefecture Cultural Preservation Council Chairman Eiji Gibo said. "There's no doubt Okinawa's blue sky and emerald green ocean comprises one of the most beautiful natural environments in the world. I hope this proposal gives everyone a good reason to keep the environment clean and preserve our unique nature," Gibo stated.

WWFJ's Nature Preservation Chief, Shinichi Hanawa, also agreed that the nomination would help Okinawa's environment. "I warmly recommend that the Ryukyu Archipelago be named a World Heritage Site, it has a very unique natural environment that needs to be protected," Hanawa said.

Yakushima, an island south of Kagishima, is already registered as a World Heritage Site. Its nature is constantly under the eye of WWFJ and development on the island is strictly regulated.

Many experts agree that becoming a World Heritage Site would give a big boost to the budding eco-tourism ventures within the prefecture.

Perhaps the biggest cheer comes from circles that for several reasons oppose the relocation of the MCAS Futenma to a new base to be built offshore off Camp Schwab. They see that having Okinawa as a whole registered as a World Heritage Site would boost the changes that the new base would never materialize.

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