Teshima Island waste dispute nears end

A 25-year-old dispute over industrial waste dumped on Teshima Island in Kagawa Prefecture was close to being resolved on Friday when a government commission formally presented a settlement plan to the prefectural government and Teshima residents.

The Environmental Disputes Coordination Commission suggested in its final proposal that some 500,000 tons of industrial waste be transferred to nearby Naoshima Island, located in the Inland Sea.

The plan also stipulates that the governor of Kagawa apologize to islanders for allowing the illegal waste to be dumped.

The commission handed over its plan to the two parties at a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo, officials said.

Both the Kagawa Prefectural Government and local residents have signaled their readiness to accept the plan.

“Arbitration over the pollution will be achieved,” said veteran lawyer Kohei Nakabo, the leader of a group of lawyers representing local residents.

In 1975, a now-defunct local tourism development company submitted a request to the prefectural government to start an industrial-waste disposal business on the island. Islanders, however, later filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the construction of a waste-disposal facility.

The islanders and the company reached a compromise in 1978 allowing the company to dispose of wood shavings and sludge produced in paper production.

But large amounts of industrial waste began to be dumped illegally on the island around 1983, evoking complaints from local residents.

Police discovered illegal dumping on the island in 1990. In 1993, residents sought government arbitration on the issue, and in 1995 a survey by the commission found toxic substances, including dioxins, on the island.

Residents subsequently filed a damages suit against the company, seeking compensation and the removal of the industrial waste. The Takamatsu District Court ruled in their favor in late 1996.

In 1997, the islanders and the prefectural government agreed to an interim settlement that proposed disposing of the industrial waste where it was dumped. The interim plan did not stipulate an apology from the prefectural government and only said that the prefectural government had failed to properly instruct those who dumped the waste.