Mitake mayor to conduct waste dump plebiscite

MITAKE, Gifu Pref. — The mayor of Mitake plans to conduct on June 22 the nation’s first local plebiscite on whether to allow construction of an industrial waste dumping facility, officials said May 7.

The facility, planned for a valley near the Kiso River by local waste disposal firm Toshiwa Industries Corp., has been the focus of contention between advocates of the project and residents opposed to it. Under the plebiscite ordinance proposed by local residents and approved by the local assembly in January, Mayor Yoshiro Yanagawa was required to hold the vote on a Sunday before July 20.

Although two other cities — Hidaka village in Kochi Prefecture and the city of Kobayashi in Miyazaki Prefecture — have adapted ordinances for plebiscites on industrial waste sites, Mitake will be the first in the nation to actually conduct such a vote. The dispute in Mitake became the focus of media attention when Yanagawa was nearly killed in an assault by two unidentified men after suspending construction on the site last October.

The plebiscite will be the third such ballot to affect government policy, following last year’s plebiscite in Maki, Niigata Prefecture, on the construction of a nuclear reactor and a vote by Okinawa Prefecture residents on the presence of U.S. military bases.

Opponents of the project argue that the site could pollute the source of drinking water for some 5 million residents of the Chubu region. Mitake, which lacks major industries, depends heavily on money from land developers and subsidies from national and prefectural governments.