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A report released Saturday by a civic group calling for the suspension of the Isahaya Bay land reclamation project in Nagasaki Prefecture says the 249 billion yen cost of the project will outweigh its economic benefits.

The project, which was commenced in 1986 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of fiscal 2006, is at the center of a dispute between the government that is promoting it and local seaweed farmers, who blame it for declining crops in nearby areas. The group, comprised of locals who want to save the remainder of the Isahaya tideland, worked with experts on fiscal finance and environmental policies to produce the report.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries project would reclaim about 3,500 hectares in the innermost area of Isahaya Bay and create around 1,800 hectares of farmland. Dikes have already been built across the mouth of the bay.

The ministry says the economic benefits of the project, including those reaped from the containment of possible natural disasters, should be at least 1 percent greater than the total cost, according to the group.

But the report says the ministry based its disaster prevention calculations on a natural calamity of unrealistic proportions and arbitrarily valued the potential benefits from the farmland that would be created by the project. Considering these two factors alone, the group forecast that the economic benefits will amount to 61 percent of the total cost of the project.

The report also faults the ministry for failing to weigh the economic benefits of the tideland itself, once one of the largest in Japan, which has been destroyed by the project.

While the ministry says it is impossible to estimate the monetary value of the tideland’s capacity to purify discharged sewage, the group estimates the value as being on par with the construction cost of sewer systems.

If this point is considered, the economic benefits of the project would be diminished to a mere 30 percent of the total project cost, the report says.

The group also said that while the project is designated as farmland development, its primary purpose is to prevent potential flooding in the area.

“This reclamation project should be discontinued and other disaster preparedness measures should be worked out,” the group said.

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