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Tidelands reclamation starts as court continues hearings

Date Posted: 2009-01-23

The Naha District Court ordered work on the Awase Tideland Reclamation Project to cease, but the government ordered the work to begin anyway, triggering a new round of protests pitting government against environmentalists.

Okinawa Prefecture’s governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, and Okinawa City mayor Mitsuko Tomon ordered by the district court to stop the Awase tideland project, saying there was no economic rationality to the reclamation work, and ordered reclamation work to cease. The governor and mayor filed an appeal to the high court.

Meanwhile, the government directed workers to begin soil and sand dredging work for the 95 hectares area included in the first reclamation area. That work began January 15th, with workers encountering opposition and pro-project demonstrators as they tried to move soil and sandbags to boats. Mayor Tomon said “Japan has announced the first district area’s construction start, and I have word from the Okinawa General Bureau office that they will work as usual, and I have no comment.”

The Prefecture Civil Engineering Department director said “It is the state’s own work site, and we want this work moved forward.” It was begun in 2002, and by 2007 69 hectares had outside bank protection work and fencing done. He says the current soil and sand work should make the reclamation land come out.

Opponents continue to protest, and a rally staged by the Representatives of Awase Tide Land Protection Committee Group complained “Why do the Japanese Government, Okinawa Prefecture and Okinawa City not listen to what the Naha District Court gave? We have to protect the nature in Okinawa City and from the Awase area.” Others assailed the construction workers, accusing them of destroying nature and adding “there are many living things around Awase Tidelands and we need to protect them.”

Opposition leaders conceded they can’t stop the work from continuing as long as court appeals continue. Proponents of the construction work praise the reclamation work done, citing Nakagusuku Harbor’s new area that already has attracted many business groups to set up offices and companies. One company owner happily noted “Our harbor facility is great, and almost better than Naha Harbor. We can make a harbor town here, and never give up. We always have jobs here.”

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