At present, a beautiful sea of Okinawa, the southern island of Japan, is being reclaimed. The reason for attempting to reclaim the sea is to build a new U.S. military base. Currently, more than 70% of U.S. military facilities and areas (exclusive-use facilities) in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa Prefecture. The new U.S. military base that is being built will destroy endangered dugongs, coral reef, and other rare creatures that inhabit the sea. In addition, land reclamation of the sea has been enforced despite the fact that the voting in Okinawa’s elections has shown opposition to building a new base in the past years, as well as the resistance of indigenous people.
The name of the sea where the landfill began in December 2018 is Oura-sea in Henoko. The construction of the new base not only destroys the beautiful sea and its ecosystems, but also threatens the safety of U.S. soldiers, as it’s built on soft ground. In addition, the U.S. government will have to continue paying a huge maintenance fee for the incomplete base.
The planned base would lead to catastrophic environmental destruction, dumping 21 million cubic meters of gravel and sand – equivalent to 3.5 million 10-ton trucks – into the pristine seas off the coast of Cape Henoko.
Henoko is also well-known as a treasure trove of marine life and the primary habitat of the critically endangered Okinawa dugong, a manatee-like marine mammal. The bay, which lies adjacent to Cape Henoko and is also slated for land reclamation for the new base, is similarly rich in marine flora and fauna, and home to more than 5,300 species, including rare varieties of coral and more than 260 endangered species. However, while the Japanese and American governments have been pushing the new base construction for the last 20 years, Henoko has also been the site of an ongoing non-violent sit-in aimed at halting the construction.
Besides that the construction of the new military base would destroy the beautiful sea and its ecosystem, putting the base on soft ground poses dangers to the U.S. soldiers, and the U.S. government will have to continue paying for its maintenance. It has also been pointed out that a fault exists under the sea where the new base is planned to be built. When an earthquake along the fault occurs, the U.S. military facilities may collapse. The new base be harmful not only the nature of Okinawa, but also to U.S. soldiers.
Landfill progressed by only 1% last year due to persistent opposition by the Okinawan people. We can still stop the reclamation of the Henoko sea. Let’s not lose the chance to make a difference before it’s too late.