Aichi cancels expo housing plan over environment fears

Aichi Prefecture has canceled its plan to construct houses and roads on the site of a forest in Seto for World Expo 2005 as a result of concerns over the expo’s impact on the environment, trade chief Takashi Fukaya announced on Tuesday.

During a meeting in Tokyo with Aichi Gov. Masaaki Kanda and Shoichiro Toyoda, chairman of the Japan Association for the 2005 World Exposition and honorary chairman of Toyota Motor Corp., Fukaya said the three parties have also agreed to scale down overall plans for the expo.

The size of the expo budget will be reduced from the current 180 billion yen and the number of prospective visitors cut from the original target of 25 million.

Despite protests by environmental groups over plans to develop Kaisho Forest, however, the expo promoters said they will build a “symbol zone” on the southern part of its hillside, in line with the expo’s theme, “Beyond Development: Rediscovering Nature’s Wisdom.”

“If the theme didn’t go with Kaisho Forest, it wouldn’t make sense,” Fukaya told a joint press conference following Tuesday’s meeting. “We respect the opinions of all parties concerned, but it is impossible to meet their demands 100 percent.”

The expo association, together with the Aichi Prefectural Government and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, will work out the details of the new plan and file an application with the Paris-based International Bureau of the Exposition (BIE) this summer in order to obtain approval at its general assembly in November or December.

Under its previous plan, the application would have been submitted to the BIE’s general assembly in May.

The three parties also agreed to solicit opinions from experts, local parties and environmental protection groups so it can decide how to develop the forested site in a way that preserves its environment.

The development will involve building expo facilities, research facilities and recreational areas designed to help people live in harmony with nature.