Landfill feared for Awase tidal flat, Okinawa
(posted to the Ramsar Forum, 18 January 2001)
[Ramsar Forum] AWASE tidal flat, Okinawa, Japan
Dear Forum members,
I understand many of Forum members are now busy in preparing for the new century's first World Wetland Day, as we are here in Japan. But I believe it is also our duty to report important wetland issues to the Forum.
I wish I could start with some good news on wetland conservation. Unfortunately, this is a rather disturbing development in southern Japan.
A brief note on "AWASE" tidal flat area, Okinawa, Japan
You may remember Okinawa, because the Japanese Government hosted the G8 Summit there last summer. Several of you may have attended the International Workshop held later in Okinawa. The latest (11th) Ramsar site in Japan, Manko, is also located in Okinawa.
The Central Government has recently issued its approval to a landfill project at Awase tidal flat in the central Okinawa Island. The project will be jointly pursued by the national and prefectural (local) governments. Recent legal changes have robbed the Ministry of Environment, which as of early 2001 replaces the former Environment Agency, of their right to express an opinion on this 187 ha landfill project.
Local NGOs as well as national conservation NGOs have criticized this landfill project. According to them, the main issues are as follows:
1. The Awase tidal flat area is one of most important among remaining tidal flat areas in Okinawa. Shorelines especially inner bay areas have been heavily developed in Okinawa Island.
2. Awase is strategically an important area for the conservation of migratory waterfowl. The largest concentration of waterfowl on Okinawa Island has been observed in Awase tidal flat area. Among important waterfowl species are little tern (Sterna albifrons), Pacific golden plover (Pluvialis fulva) and Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus dealbatus).
3. An EIA has been done but was hardly appropriate. Although recognizing the Awase area as an important seagrass bed site for its extent and seagrass diversity, it merely concluded that transplanting of seagrass will suffice to compensate loss of the original seagrass habitats, based on a short-term, reduced-scale, experimental replanting project.
This landfill project at Awase may start anytime soon. I will report any further development on the subject. Meanwhile, if you would like to know more details, please contact me directly. I can provide information prepared by local NGOs (sorry, in English only) or give their contact addresses.
Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan
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