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Northern forest to be radically changed by Prefecture development

Date Posted: 2008-05-16

Okinawa’s plans for developing a primeval northern Okinawa forest will alter the landscape and, environmentalists charge, destroy the nesting habitat of birds and wipe out wildlife.

Wildlife experts are fearful the ambitious development project will kill off the endangered Noguchigera, a bird indigenous to northern Okinawa. Broadleaf trees that are home to the birds are already dying, and new roads planned for the region will require cutting 77 hectares of the big trees. Without the trees, environmentalists point out, the Noguchigera has no place to go.

The road currently being blazed through the forest is in the River Ie Basin, home to hundreds of birds. The road will track along the northern side of Kunigami Village.

Okinawa Prefecture’s Northern Forest Planning District says there will be 23 new roads cut through the forest within the next six years. Budgets are already in place for the project, with 90% of the money coming from the national government. The project is targeted for completion by 2014, Already, the northwest coast of Kunigami Village’s Ginama area has had all trees bulldozed or cut, leaving a denuded landscape.

Environmental specialists say “it’s dead land now” and warn that when rains come, river waters turn to red as the clay soil is carried down the river to the ocean. Katsuyuki Taira says “our forest could be nominated as a World Heritage Site, and there are so many important natural creatures living here,” but says the Prefecture hasn’t considered the environmental aspect. The 57-year-old says “day by day, animals and birds are losing their lives, and won’t be coming back anymore. We might lose the birds, too, and I feel so sad.”

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