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Okinawa’s natural beaches disappearing at rapid rate

Date Posted: 2003-10-11

Okinawa’s principal tourist attraction, its beaches, are vanishing. Researchers say that Okinawa’s world-famous white sandy beaches are disappearing at an alarming rate, and are being replaced by an increasing number of man-made beaches as the development of the coastal areas on the island escalate.

According to officials at the Ministry of Environment, Okinawa had 1,203.8 km of natural beaches in 1960. Since then they have disappeared at a rate of 40.1 km each three years. Their disappearance escalated rapidly after Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese rule in 1972, when large Japanese construction companies gained free access to the prefecture. Although construction increased remarkably, much of the beaches were simply stolen. Large dump trucks loaded the sand and transported it to mainland resorts, where white Okinawan sand was in heavy demand.

Researchers say man-made beaches likely cause more damage than people think. “Nature is the best constructor. Man-made beaches are artificial structures that do not set well in the natural order of things. They disturb natural coastal currents of the ocean and that puts stress on everything living in the area. We should think much more carefully when we draw up construction plans for coastal areas, or we may be in for a big and not so pleasant surprise in the future,” Professor Eizo Nakaza of the University of the Ryukyus Department of Biology says.

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