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Court puts skids on Awase reclamation project

Date Posted: 2008-11-27

Tension between Okinawa Prefecture, Okinawa City and local residents in Awase, Okinawa City, ratcheted up another couple notches this week as the Naha District Court granted an injunction stopping the Awase Tidelands reclamation construction work.

More than 400 citizens who think the reclamation is a waste of money have opposed the controversial project, which the prefecture and the city contend is essential to east coast development,. The Awase Tidelands project has been in the works since 1984, when Okinawa City bought the land and drafted plans for an east coast seashore reclamation project. The initial reclamation work was completed in 1988.

Further development concepts were created between 1995 and 2002, when Okinawa City’s citizens rejected further development in a referendum. The prefecture and the city went ahead with the project over protests by local residents and conservationists, leading more than 400 protesters headed to court demanding ¥2 billion already spent be returned to public coffers.

The Naha District Court ordered work stopped, saying the project had “lacked all economic rationality”. Governor Hirokazu Nakaima had ordered the project to go forward last April with the backing of Okinawa City Mayor Mitsuko Tomon, saying “I want to complete at least the first 96 hectares construction zone,” which Mayor Tomon had earlier agreed to. The governor’s response to the court order was to announce he’ll “talk with Prefecture Assembly members and discuss what is the best way to proceed.” He said an appeal of the lower court’s order is a possibility.

Tomon’s reaction to the prefecture’s decision to continue with the project even after being told to stop was predictable. “I will discuss with my lawyer and assembly members what we should do.” Tomon says she doesn’t understand the court’s comments, noting “It’s kind of hard to understand what it means.” She says that she will make up her mind after those discussions.

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