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YAMAGATA (Kyodo) The recently revealed acquisition by a foreigner of woodland that covers the headstream of the Mogami River in Yamagata Prefecture is concerning locals because of the possible impact on water resources.

The buyer, identified only as a man residing in Singapore, bought around 10 hectares of privately owned land from a citizen in Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture, and reported it to the prefectural government in July 2010 as land to build a vacation home, sources said.

The land is located southeast of Onogawa hot spring, which is known for fireflies in summer. The transaction follows a recent series of purchases of woodlands by nonresidents, mostly in Hokkaido.

Under Japanese law, land use by foreigners may be restricted if there are restrictions on Japanese ownership of land in their home country. However, no specific regulations have been drawn up in Japan.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a Diet panel in October that he would look into whether it is necessary to outline regulations controlling land ownership by foreigners.

In Yamagata, Katsumi Kato, an official of the prefectural forest union association, said, “If forestland is owned for purposes other than forestry, it would make it difficult for the government to check what it is used for and provide appropriate guidance.”

He said such land can even be turned into a dumping site for industrial waste and would lose the land preservation function of forests that may help reduce natural disasters.

Kasumi Shibuma, a Yonezawa municipal assemblyman who took up the issue of forest land purchase by foreign entities, called for measures to control woodland purchases by foreigners.

“Overseas strategic acquisitions of water resources have been intensifying,” he said. “We need to take it seriously that (the acquisition in question) was in the headstream area of the Mogami River.”

Hiroo Shibata, who leads a local conservation group called the Beautiful Yamagata & Mogami River Forum, expressed concern about the potential impact of unregulated woodland development.

As possible consequences, he mentioned the depletion of water resources by pumping groundwater, the deterioration of water quality as a result of development, and the destruction of scenic views caused by logging.

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