An international advisory body on natural sites nominated for the World Heritage status has shown interest in the environmental implications of a plan to build a new U.S. military base in Okinawa, as the location of the base is next to an area seeking to be listed, local officials said Wednesday.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature plans to visit the candidate site in Okinawa possibly in the fall and is also wishing to discuss the environmental problems linked to the plan to transfer U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, which involves reclaiming land off the coastal area of Henoko, the officials and others said.
The Okinawa prefectural government, which has been strongly against the Futenma relocation plan, has been calling on the advisory body known as IUCN to pay attention to the Henoko land reclamation project from the viewpoint of environmental conservation.
Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga sent a letter to the IUCN on the issue in April, saying he wants the international body to urge the U.S. and Japanese governments to give up the base relocation plan due to environmental concerns.
The Henoko coastal area has coral reefs and is a habitat of the endangered dugong.
In a statement in May, the IUCN urged the Okinawa prefectural government to work with other related Japanese organs to arrange a meeting so that the IUCN members can discuss the Henoko issue during an on-site survey of the World Heritage candidate site.
The Okinawa government further asked IUCN in June to study and debate the Henoko issue apart from the World Heritage site assessment.
Under the plan based on a Japan-U.S. agreement, the Futenma base will be moved from a crowded residential area in Ginowan to the less populated Henoko coastal area of Nago.
The Japanese government submitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in February its proposal for a chain of islands in the country’s southwest to be added to the World Heritage list, which includes the northern part of the main island of Okinawa.