A Japanese environmental activist who has persistently protested the ongoing reclamation project of Isahaya Bay in Nagasaki Prefecture was awarded the $100,000 Goldman Environmental Prize for 1998 Monday in San Francisco.

Prize organizers said Hirofumi Yamashita, 64, has contributed to reduce the scale of the reclamation plan during the past 25 years through his protest activities.

They also praised Yamashita, leader of the Japan Wetlands Network, for his continued efforts to make the Japanese government review the project even after the sluices were closed for the reclamation last April.

“Now the whole world, including U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan — who attended the award ceremony — has turned its eyes to Japan,” Yamashita said. “If the Japanese government won’t review the (Isahaya) project, it’ll develop into an international problem.”

Isahaya Bay is known as one of the world’s richest wetland ecosystems.

Besides Yamashita, five other grassroots activists were given the environmental award, which was established in 1989 by the San Francisco-based Goldman Environmental Foundation.

Yamashita is the second Japanese to be given the prize and the first honored for tackling issues within Japan.

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