Marine activists demand opening of water gate

A citizens’ group concerned over the extinction of marine life in Isahaya Bay, Nagasaki Prefecture, took to the streets May 13 in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district.

The group’s members called on the government to open a closed water gate that is blocking the flow of sea water under a reclamation project in the bay. In front of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries building, members of the group, Tokyo Residents from the Sea of Ariake, acted like the clams and seabirds that inhabit Isahaya Bay while chanting, “Open the water gate right now!”

“We’ve lived in the Sea of Ariake (which adjoins Isahaya Bay) long before mankind appeared on the Earth,” said a participant playing the part of a dead crab. “They (government officials) must realize that they are part of nature.”

“Although we are just a small group of people living in Tokyo and Chiba, some are originally from the areas close to the Sea of Ariake,” said Etsuko Nimura, leader of the group. “That’s why we have taken action in Tokyo to protect our homeland.” With the help of citizens’ groups and nongovernmental organizations nationwide, as well as recent media coverage of the issue, Nimura said, grassroots efforts against the reclamation project are gradually becoming visible on the national level.

Although they tried to submit a statement of their demand to the minister after the performance, they were barred by security guards and ministry officials. “Many people tend to think that what the authorities once decided can never be overturned,” Nimura said. “What we need is the courage to say that what is wrong is wrong.”

The reclamation of Isahaya Bay, which has been aborted and resurfaced time and again since the idea was initially conceived in 1952, recently gained momentum when the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries closed on April 14 the 1.2-km water gate in the 7-km embankment that crosses the bay. The 3,000-hectare wetland inside the closed area, known for its rich ecodiversity, is reportedly drying up by the day, wiping out virtually all the rare species that inhabit only areas where rivers meet the sea and cannot be seen in any other region in the world.