Plan for Chichijima airport withdrawn

Environmental risks for Ogasawara isle are too great, Tokyo report says

Tokyo officials said Tuesday they are withdrawing a plan to construct an airport on Chichijima Island in the Ogasawara Island chain, about 1,000 km south of Tokyo.

The decision was based on a metropolitan government panel report received in October. The report found that construction of an airport would still be detrimental to the natural environment of the planned site at Mount Shigure, even if conservation steps are taken.

It makes particular note of the absence of viable sites to which rare azaleas, found only in the subtropical Ogasawara chain, could be transplanted.

The metropolitan government will study several alternative plans for linking the remote island chain to central Tokyo, including examining other candidate sites for an airport and a rapid sea transportation link, the officials said.

The government had originally planned to build an airport on the uninhabited Anijima Island, just north of Chichijima.

However, the idea was scrapped due to objections from the former Environment Agency, now the Environment Ministry. The agency said building an airport on Anijima would irreparably damage the island’s ecosystem of precious flora and fauna. The site was changed to Chichijima in 1998.

Island residents are keen to have an airport built in the region, as it takes more than a day to reach Tokyo by ship, and traveling by sea is currently the only means of transportation for islanders and tourists.

However, many people, including some islanders, have voiced concerns over plans for an airport for fear its construction would damage the natural environment.

Due to their geographic isolation, the islands of Ogasawara teem with rare creatures and plants, and are often referred to as the “oriental Galapagos Islands.”