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Coastal areas and wetlands around the Seto Inland Sea should be restored and land reclamation projects strictly controlled to protect remaining natural areas, an Environment Agency advisory group said in a report released Tuesday.

The report, which addresses the Law Concerning Special Measures for the Conservation of the Environment of the Seto Inland Sea, recommends a break with past policy by encouraging the active restoration of wetlands and areas originally abundant with algae and aquatic plants.

It also recommends that reclamation projects should be allowed only when unavoidable, and after adequate assessment and steps have been taken to minimize environmental degradation.

The report is the result of more than a year of debate by a study group of the Seto Inland Sea Environment Preservation Deliberation Committee at the request of the director general of the Environment Agency.

The committee will consult the report over the next year as it drafts recommendations on environmental policy in the Seto Inland Sea area to be delivered to the Cabinet around March 2000.

The report urges reduction of the use of seabed gravel for concrete because it threatens the coastal environment. It also encourages citizens’ participation in environmental preservation initiatives, such as recycling and waste reduction.

The proposed recommendations are the first major overhaul of the inland sea protection law since its inception 26 years ago. The inland sea and surrounding areas include 13 prefectures that are home to approximately 30 million people.

Since the special measures law was effected in 1973 to protect the inland sea, water quality has improved, the incidence of red tide has dropped nearly 40 percent, and the amount of wetlands and coastal areas drained and filled to create dry land has dropped from an average of around 2000 hectares per year to about 400 per year over the last quarter century, agency officials said.

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