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Developers, locals do battle over Iriomote Island growth

Date Posted: 2006-09-29

Iriomote Island is often billed as the ‘Last Paradise in Okinawa.’

Island residents would like to see that moniker stick, and are waging a campaign against resort developers they fear will destroy the environment and ruin their way of life. An area of Urauchi River Resort, Frontia, is a primary target because islanders think the Unimat Real Estate Company, a Manila-based developer, is bashing the environment.

The islanders have now taken developers to court for a fifth time, citing the need to protect nature on Iriomote Island. Past court rulings did not address issues of protecting animals, trees and forests, but this time the islanders are seeking environmental protection for them, too.

A local group says “local humans and nature’s birds, animals, and forests are the same as life. We are equal things and we live with nature together.” Minoru Okajima, an attorney for the islanders, says “Animals, trees, forests and plants can’t say anything for their own mind, so we’re substituting for them. To say ‘don’t cut us! Don’t let us die!’ “ Okajima says “we’re telling the story from their point of view, demanding a stop to the development.

A total of 463 islanders have banded together to protest actions being taken by developers. They islanders have been to court before, and in March lost the first case they had filed.

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