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Court rules against Iriomote residents’ complaint

Date Posted: 2003-09-27

Naha District Court ruled Monday that a developer could continue building a resort hotel on Iriomote Island, despite of local residents’ objections. The residents tried to stop Tokyo-based Unimat Housing Co. from continuing construction of a resort that residents say will take scarce water resources away from them, and pollute the island’s pristine nature. Iriomote Island is often said to be the last true wilderness in Japan, and is the home for many species of rare and endangered animals and plants that are found nowhere else. Most of the island is designated as a natural park.

A representative for the 100+ residents who were the plaintiffs in the case said the hotel would consume such vast quantities of water that it will inevitably affect the residents. He said that the hotel also would produce much waste and that would pollute the local environment.

A spokesman for the developer claims that residents’ fears are groundless. “We have secured a supply of water and none is from residents. We also have adequate systems to clean all our wastewater, so there will be no pollution of the environment. Besides, the hotel is built on a very soft sand that will clean any water that is accidentally spilled on it before it gets into the ocean,” the spokesman claimed.

Hotel construction began in March, with the first phase scheduled to be complete in February. The second phase, construction of several cottages, will continue towards the end of 2004. Residents vow to continue the fight. Kinsei Ishigaki, a representative of the residents’ group, says they will appeal to a higher court. “We knew what the verdict in the lower court would be, but from now on the real fight starts. We will not give up,” Ishigaki says.

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