Amagasaki residents seek mediation in car-pollution fight

Kyodo

Residents of Amagasaki plan to lodge a complaint with a ministry panel over the government’s failure to abide by a 2000 settlement on vehicle emissions, sources close to the dispute said Thursday.

It would be the first time for a group to ask a home affairs ministry commission to conciliate in such a dispute after a settlement was struck in court, they said.

The residents allege the government and the government-run Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. reneged on a December 2000 settlement reached at the Osaka High Court after they sued the government over illnesses caused by air pollution.

The group of 21 people will file the complaint in the middle of this month and demand conciliation, one of the four services given by the Environmental Dispute Coordination Commission.

The commission, established in July 1972 and operating under the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry, has a mandate to quickly and fairly resolve environmental disputes through its services of conciliation, mediation, arbitration and adjudication.

In December 2000, the government and the corporation agreed to take specific measures to step up air pollution monitoring and restrict traffic volume along National Highway 43 and the Kobe section of the Hanshin Expressway, an elevated toll road.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry, however, has so far maintained that the provision in the settlement of limiting the number of large vehicles along the national highway and Kobe section fell under the jurisdiction of Hyogo Prefectural Police and the government has no authority in such traffic regulation.

This prompted the residents to ask the ministry for concrete measures, including reduction targets for traffic volume, but the ministry has reportedly failed to comply.

The residents claim the settlement reached two years ago envisioned a comprehensive road traffic policy, and it is useless if the regulation is to be based on existing law.

They added that they are also considering filing a new lawsuit seeking traffic regulations on large vehicles.

Ahead of the December settlement, the Kobe District Court in January 2000 ordered the government and the corporation to pay 210 million yen in compensation to 50 residents of the city who came down with respiratory illnesses caused by air pollution.

The lawsuit was filed in 1988.