Nearly 1,000 landowners and environmental activists crammed into the the gallery May 8 for the first deliberations by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s land expropriation committee on the controversial construction of a waste dump in Hinode, western Tokyo.

“Forests could never be restored to life on soil polluted with toxic chemicals. Please do not deprive us of this priceless forest,” Kiyoe Tashima, a local resident near the planned site, said in the opening statement by the landowners.

The San-Tama District Wide Area Waste Disposal Union, which handles garbage from 27 municipalities in the Tama district, filed an application with the committee in December seeking public expropriation of two tracts of land within the construction site. The tracts, totaling 460 sq. meters in size, have been split into small pieces, with title distributed to more than 2,800 people who are against construction of the waste dump.

Local residents strongly oppose the project, claiming the current dump in the town has leaked polluted water and other poisonous materials, including dioxin. Waste from the Tama district is currently being disposed of in a dump adjacent to the site where the new one would go. The union says the current dump will be filled up by the end of this fiscal year. Construction of the new site is under way but is being hampered by the two parcels owned by the protesters.

Landowners claimed during the session that the union is irresponsible and cannot be trusted with the project, pointing out that it has refused to disclose data on possible damage from leakage of tainted water from the dump site. Despite a 1995 court order to disclose the data, the union has refused to do so and instead has chosen to use taxpayers’ money to pay fines that have reached nearly 200 million yen so far.

Local residents have said that water-proof sheets under layers of waste have developed numerous leaks.

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