National

Koike postpones decision on fate of Tsukiji relocation until summer

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike announced Friday that she will decide in summer whether to relocate Tsukiji fish market to the alternative Toyosu site in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, further delaying the long-troubled move originally scheduled for Nov. 7 this year.

At the earliest, the relocation will take place sometime between winter next year and the spring of 2018, Koike said.

The governor did not rule out the option of scrapping the whole plan, which has been suspended on fears of soil pollution at the Toyosu site. The current Tsukiji market, which is famous worldwide, is located near the Ginza shopping district in Chuo Ward.

“At this point, we still can’t say the relocation is a sure thing,” the governor told reporters during her regular news conference at the metropolitan government headquarters in Shinjuku Ward.

She suspended the moving plan in late August amid lingering concerns about the site’s soil pollution. The Toyosu site sits on once-highly polluted land that belonged to Tokyo Gas Co.

Koike also said the expected delay, in any scenario, would affect preparations for the Tokyo Olympics. A planned underground road running through the Tsukiji site and connecting the city center with Olympic venues will likely not be finished by the 2020 games, she said.

Koike instead proposed construction of an alternate above-ground road or the use of existing roads for the Olympic games.

Results of the final groundwater monitoring survey at the Toyosu site will be announced in January. Together with the results, a panel of experts will examine the safety of the Toyosu site in April and May, with Koike to make a decision in the summer, she said.

If the metro government concludes that minor modifications to an earlier environmental assessment report would be enough to go ahead, the Toyosu marketplace will begin operation sometime between winter 2017 and the following spring, she said.

But Koike added that the relocation work might not be finished by spring 2019 if the government determines that a new environmental assessment is required.

The governor’s decision on the fate of the Toyosu market will require approval from the Environment Ministry.

Friday’s announcement comes amid growing concern from fish wholesalers who say a lack of progress in preparations has kept their business plans in limbo.

Earlier in the week, Hiroyasu Ito, chairman of the Tsukiji Market Association, urged the governor to clarify her stance on the relocation plan to help wholesalers prepare financial forecasts.

Ito, who handed a formal request to metro officials on Monday, lamented that further delays and a lack of information and response from the government have hindered their preparations and caused huge financial losses.

“It’s regrettable (the delay) has caused so much trouble … but right now the most important thing is to ensure safety,” Koike said Friday.

The governor also said officials would announce a detailed compensation scheme for fish dealers affected by the delay by January.

Koike announced her decision to postpone the Toyosu project in late August.

Local assembly members found later that layers of clean soil were not placed under the main facilities to be used by the wholesalers. Instead, empty space was left to house utility pipes and cables, although outside experts had said that clean soil should be laid down to prevent contamination.

The lawmakers also found a pool of ground water containing traces of several toxic chemicals in the underground space. The government is considering using a pumping system to remove the water, Koike said.