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Reclamation project in ‘Ponyo’ port ends after nine-year court battle

JIJI

Hiroshima Prefecture agreed Monday to scrap a controversial reclamation project in the scenic port of Tomonoura, bringing an end to a court battle with local residents who called for preserving views of the port.

During a meeting at the Hiroshima High Court to resolve disputed points, the prefectural government offered to withdraw its application for approval of the reclamation, while the residents agreed to drop their case against the prefecture.

“Rather than simply feeling relieved that the trial is over, we will continue efforts to maintain and develop Tomonoura’s cultural and historical scenery,” Hideko Matsui, secretary-general of the plaintiff group, said in a news conference.

Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki said that “ending the trial is meaningful in terms of promoting community development in the Tomo district,” which includes Tomonoura.

Yuzaki said the prefectural government wants to work on urgent projects, such as implementing disaster reduction and response measures, together with the local community.

Tomonoura, located in the city of Fukuyama, is one of the most picturesque places facing the Seto Inland Sea. It is known for its historical port facilities, including a stone lighthouse.

In recent years, the area has drawn attention as a place where renowned director Hayao Miyazaki set the story for his 2008 animated film “Gake no Ue no Ponyo” (“Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea”).

In 1983, the prefecture mapped out a project involving waterfront reclamation and the building of a bridge to ease the area’s traffic congestion. The prefectural government and the city of Fukuyama applied for landfill approval by the governor in May 2007.

Local opponents filed a lawsuit in April 2007, seeking an injunction against the issuance of a license to reclaim the port, with the aim of preserving the port’s historic scenery.

In October 2009, the Hiroshima District Court ordered the prefecture not to issue the landfill license, saying that scenic views of Tomonoura are in the public interest.

Although the prefectural government appealed the ruling, Gov. Yuzaki, who took office shortly after the appeal was made, announced his decision to scrap the reclamation project. But he had not yet launched the procedures for withdrawing the license application due to a lack of understanding among advocates of the project.