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Residents of Amagasaki in Hyogo Prefecture, the government and a public expressway corporation accepted a mediation proposal Thursday on their fight over air pollution.

The Environmental Dispute Coordination Commission, a home affairs ministry panel, made the proposal after the residents lodged a complaint with it last October over the government’s failure to abide by a December 2000 settlement on vehicle emissions.

The residents alleged that the state and the state-run Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. reneged on the agreement reached at the Osaka High Court after they had sued the government over illnesses caused by air pollution.

This is the first time in Japan that the commission, under the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry, has resolved such a dispute after a settlement was struck in court, according to the commission.

In December 2000, the government and the corporation agreed to take specific measures to step up air-pollution monitoring and restrict traffic volume along National Highway 43 and the Kobe section of the Hanshin Expressway, an elevated toll road.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry, however, maintained that a provision in the settlement limiting the number of large vehicles along the national highway and the Kobe section fell under the jurisdiction of the Hyogo prefectural police. The ministry claimed that the state has no authority over such traffic regulation.

The residents therefore requested that the ministry take concrete measures, including targeted reductions for traffic volume. The ministry, however, has reportedly failed to do so.

The residents claim the settlement envisioned a comprehensive road traffic policy, and that it is useless if the regulation is based on existing law.

The proposal recognized the government’s failure to abide by the provisions in the settlement and called on the state to take responsibility for executing them in accordance with the residents’ request.

It urged the ministry to ask the National Police Agency to conduct a comprehensive survey on traffic volume aimed at eventually limiting the number of large vehicles along the national highway. It also pushed the NPA to study the feasibility of limiting the number of vehicles on the highway during certain times of day.

The proposal asked the state and the public corporation to beef up their trial plans for road pricing, reduce traffic volume and have more meetings with residents.

Ahead of the December settlement, the Kobe District Court in January 2000 ordered the government and the corporation to pay 210 million yen in compensation to 50 residents of the city suffering from various respiratory illnesses caused by air pollution.

The lawsuit was filed in 1988.

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