Airfield would destroy Nago environment: panel

Kyodo

An Okinawa Prefectural Government panel has concluded that building a new airfield in Nago to relocate the U.S. Futenma base would destroy the natural environment and make the area uninhabitable.

The panel submitted its views in a report to the prefectural government, after completing its examination of an environmental impact assessment report by the central government on moving U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the coastal area in Henoko.

The panel’s report was released Wednesday and Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima will likely cite its conclusion when presenting his opinion to the central government on the base’s relocation by Feb. 20.

Nakaima is expected to tell the government that the Futenma base, currently located in Ginowan, should be moved outside the prefecture and stress that its relocation to Henoko is virtually impossible in light of strong local opposition, sources said.

In their report, the panel said that as the relocation would involve “a project to build an airfield on a landfill, (it) would make it almost impossible to restore the environment to its current state.”

The environmental impact of the project would be “extremely severe,” it added.

After analyzing the central government’s survey — which covered 26 fields, including the impact on the habitat of the endangered dugong — the panel pointed out about 150 problems and said the impact assessment’s findings underestimate the environmental damage.

“We made an assessment showing a negative view of the (relocation) project,” Kuniharu Miyagi, a professor at Okinawa International University and head of the panel, told reporters after presenting the report to the prefectural government.

“We expect the prefectural government to respect the report in deciding whether to permit reclamation work” in the Henoko area, he said.

Under a 2006 Japan-U.S. accord, the Futenma air base is to be transferred from Ginowan to the less populated coastal area of Nago, both on Okinawa Island.

The central government submitted the environmental impact assessment report in December, claiming the local environment could be protected if necessary measures are taken.

But a senior Okinawa official said the central government’s assessment report includes “descriptions that lack a scientific foundation.”