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Rare seaweed discovery blocks Awase project

Date Posted: 2004-08-05

The controversial Nakagusuku Bay land reclamation project in Awase has been delayed further because of a discovery of a rare species of seaweed in the area. The seaweed reportedly grows at a depth of six meters.

According to construction plans published by Okinawa Prefecture General Bureau, the work to build a temporary bridge extension was scheduled to begin on Aug. 4. As the first step, the plans called for constructing a fence to protect the area surrounding the construction site. However, the discovery of the bed of seaweed put that work on hold.

“It looks like we need to conduct a new survey of the area, and then decide whether we can transplant the seaweed to another location,” a General Bureau spokesman said.

The work at the site has been at standstill since April when researchers found eggs of a protected fish species in the area.

The bridge work was scheduled to be complete by March 2005, but the discovery of the seaweed delays all other construction in the area, and the project as been postponed indefinitely.

General Bureau officials claim that they felt free to begin the construction of the bridge as their previous survey did not reveal the existence of the seaweed. “Our previous survey did not give any indication that this seaweed existed in the area, but of course we now must take steps to protect it and possibly transplant it to another area,” the General Bureau spokesman said.

An official at the Association of Japan’s Natural Environment urges the prefecture and Okinawa City to reconsider the whole project. “Since we have found so many endangered and rare sealife species in the area, it has to be protected and a thorough research of the area conducted. Considering this, it might be worth while to reconsider the project,” an association spokesman said.

That’s a statement that many local residents who adamantly oppose the project could certainly agree with.

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