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Awase land return prompts pollution fears

Date Posted: 2008-12-05

The closing of Awase Golf Course and return of the land to Okinawa in only a few months is raising concerns about environmental pollution that may have come at the hands of the U.S. military.

Plans call for the land to be returned next year, and Kitanakagusuku Village already has plans to construct a sprawling shopping center on what’s now a hilly, challenging golf course. The U.S. military has already agreed to Japan’s examining the property to determine cultural assets that might be there, and to identify any new types of animals, plants or grasses.

What the Americans have not agreed to, and what concerns landowners, is the need for pollution research. The chairman of the Awase Golf Course Land Owners Association says he’s pleased with agreements thus far, but insists they must extend to checking the property for harmful substances and unexploded ordnance. Nobuo Higa says “we are very anxious to have the land, but are concerned about what might be there.”

Higa notes that Camp Kuwae, returned to Japan in 2003, was found to contain land polluted by oil, contaminated oil pipes and unexploded bombs. “There are all kinds of things that were found there,” Higa notes, adding “this has put development so much behind the planned time frame.” His concerns are that Awase has nine known spots where there are, or were, oil tanks.

“That’s what the information given to us is saying,” he adds, “and we are so worried about it. The present approvals from the U.S. only permit research on the cultural assets and natural habitat.

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