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Opposition mounts against building new Ishigaki Airport

Date Posted: 2008-03-13

The 30-year battle to build a new airport for Ishigaki City is becoming more intense, as land owners and environmentalists take the government to court to block the project.

A seventh public hearing in Tokyo District Court has brought new demands that permission to build the new airport be withdrawn. The government has been trying for years to build a new facility that incorporates a longer runway to permit more safe aviation operations, but environmentalists have argued it would cause pollution and damage to Ishigaki’s wildlife habitat.

The government contends adequate measures are in place to protect Ishigaki bats and birds, and say there will be no more than minimal damage, at the most, to the environment. “This construction will never cause clay pollution to enter the ocean,” a government official says, “because we will add a clause into construction contracts demanding that contractors set up a system to prevent it from happening.” The government also maintains it has already set up an effective monitoring system to prevent any ecological damage.

Land owners, who’ve been refusing to sell their property to allow the project to go forward, argue the new runway could cave in, causing heavy damage. “We are carefully planning for the heavy equipment, fill mud, airplanes and heavy goods,” counters the government. “Everything will be protected even should there be cave in accidents.” The government wants the court to compel land owners to accept the offered price for their land.

The court has scheduled another round of hearings on May 14th.

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