Here is the English version of Sakurai Kunitoshi's criticism of the Environmental Impact Statement on the Futenma Air Station replacement facility planned at Henoko, on the northeastern shore of Okinawa Island, submitted by the Japanese government to the Okinawa Prefecture from the end 2011 to early 2012 in the turmoil of hundreds of protesters blocking delivery and sitting-in at the prefectural office hallway (see Mainichi Shimbun's report (Kyodo): Gov't submits Futenma environmental report to Okinawa pref. gov't) See HERE for the Japanese version. This is part of an article published on the Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus - Okinawa, New Year 2012: Tokyo’s Year End Surprise Attack (Gavan McCormack, Sakurai Kutoshi, Urashima Etsuko).
Sakurai Kunitoshi is Okinawa’s leading environmentalist, specialist in environmental assessment law and professor at Okinawa University.
The Fatally Flawed EIS Report on the Futenma Air Station Replacement Facility – With Special Reference to the Okinawa Dugong
The delivery of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Futenma Air Station Replacement Facility Construction Project was effected today (28 December) at the crack of dawn. At about 4 a.m., the staff of the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) of the Ministry of Defense of the Government of Japan brought the EIS into Okinawa Prefectural Government Office Building. Two days earlier, the ODB had tried to hand it to the Governor but were blocked by a group of citizens opposed to the one-sided approach taken by the ODB in the conduct of the environmental impact assessment (EIA). On the 27th, they tried once again to send it to the Governor using a private courier service but were again blocked by citizens. This questionable submission of the EIS was symbolic of the abnormality of the whole EIA process.
This short note deals with the contents of EIS with regard to the Okinawa dugong. More precisely, it aims to clarify how deficient it is in showing the impact to be caused by the replacement project on the dugong.
According to the Judgment of U.S. District Court (Northern District of California) made on January 23, 2008, DOD (U.S. Department of Defense) is obliged under NHPA (National Historic Preservation Act) to “take into account” the impacts on Okinawa dugong to be caused by their undertaking (the construction and the use of Futenma Air Station Replacement Facility). The “take into account” process at a minimum must include
(1) identification of the protected property (in this case, the Okinawa dugong),
(2) the generation, collection, consideration, and weighing of information pertaining to how the undertaking will affect the historic property,
(3) a determination as to whether there will be adverse effects or not, and
(4) if necessary, development and evaluation of alternatives or modifications to the undertaking that could avoid or mitigate the adverse effects.
These are the obligations of DOD under section 402 of the NHPA. According to the Court, “satisfaction of these obligations cannot be postponed until the eve of construction when defendants (in this case, the DOD) have made irreversible commitments making additional review futile or consideration of alternatives impossible.” The DOD has taken the position that these obligations would be satisfied by Japan’s EIA. Therefore, it is crucial to check the contents of EIS regarding the Okinawa dugong and clarify whether its quality is good enough to satisfy these obligations.
|Figure 1. Dugong Identified by DEIS|
Fatal Defect of the EIS
Based on studies conducted from light aircraft and helicopters done after the submission of the Scoping Document (SD) in August 2007, the ODB concluded in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) submitted in April 2009 that there were three dugong around Okinawa Island (one offshore from Kayoh and two offshore from Kouri) and that they generally lived there (See Fig.1). Based on this observation, they concluded that the impact of the project on the individual offshore from Kayoh would be negligible because Henoko (the project site) was far enough (approximately 6km) distant from Kayoh. So far as the probability of Okinawa dugong survival is concerned, they concluded that the impact of the project was also negligible as long as they inhabit the offshore Kayoh area.
|Figure 2. Dugong Observed in the Period |
of January 1998 – January 2003
This deduction is quite illogical. As shown in Fig.2, Okinawa dugong used to be observed very frequently along the east coast of Okinawa Island including offshore Henoko. Therefore, DEIS should clarify why they were not observed in the Sea of Henoko during ODB study conducted in the period of August 2007 – April 2009. DEIS, however, made no analysis of this topic. One possible reason they did not appear is the effect of the massive study conducted by ODB at the offshore Henoko area prior to the EIA process that started in August 2007 with the submission of the Scoping Document (SD). The study cost more than 2 billion yen (more than 25 million dollars). The study of coral and dugong as well as geotechnical investigations of the area began in 2004 with numerous borings. Environmentally conscious citizens carried out nonviolent protests against this survey using canoes. To force their way through the protests, the ODB even deployed even the Maritime Self-Defense Force mine-sweeper Bungo in the middle of the night, using their frogmen to install equipment to study coral and dugong. Because these crude installations damaged the offshore coral at Henoko this incident made the front page of the local newspaper Ryukyu Shimpo on May 22, 2007 (See Fig.3).
|Ryukyu Shimpo, May 22, 2007 Survey Instruments Damaged |
Coral Pre-EIA Study of Futenma Replacement Facility Project
This massive study was conducted prior to the submission of SD in August 2007, making it very difficult to know what the situation would have been like without the project, and it contravened the spirit of EIA Law that demands the project proponent consult with interested parties at the stage of submission and before the conduct of any large-scale study. Ever since the submission of the DEIS in April 2009, the Okinawan Defence Bureau has been conducting studies in the Sea of Henoko saying that they are collecting additional information including data on typhoon conditions. Many people suspect that ODB is trying to drive away the dugong from the Sea of Henoko in order to maintain their claim that the dugong generally live offshore from Kayoh and Kouri. According to the EIS submitted today, through this post-DEIS study they observed one dugong swimming offshore from Henoko in fiscal year 2010. However, they maintain their claim made in DEIS that the impact of the project on existing dugong individuals as well as on the survival of dugong population would be negligible.
In the Scoping Document, the ODB said that it would forecast qualitatively the impact of the project on dugong studying similar cases and existing information. After the revision of EIA procedures made on March 30, 2006, project proponents were requested to carry out quantitative forecasting and must provide justification when they do not carry it out. In the case of dugong, quantitative forecasting such as population viability analysis (PVA) is requested to evaluate the impact of the project on the survival of the dugong population. Through PVA we can say that the probability of Okinawa dugong survival in the year X will be Y% with this project but Z% without the project. Comparison of Y and Z will give us a basis to evaluate the impact of the project on the Okinawa dugong. However, in the Scoping Document, no justification was made for the use of qualitative forecasting.
As for the study of similar cases, on September 13, 2007 when the SD was made available for public inspection I sent my written opinion to ODB asking whether they had any concrete idea about the existence of similar cases anywhere in the world where a dugong population on the brink of extinction was facing the impact of any similar project. I emphasized in that opinion that if they did not have any concrete case in mind, then they were merely copying the Japanese Government’ EIA technical guidelines and their assessment was completely useless. The ODB neglected my opinion and neither the DEIS submitted on April 1, 2009 nor the EIS submitted today mention anything about similar cases.
On April 28, 2009, when the DEIS was made available for public inspection, I sent my written opinion to the ODB asking them to give a rational explanation for the no-appearance of dugong in the Sea of Henoko during the ODB study conducted in the period of August 2007 – April 2009 because the DEIS had nothing to say on that topic. It made no analysis of the impact caused by the massive pre-EIA study on dugong behavior. It did not mention either the impact of disappearance of the biggest sea grass area around Okinawa Island or the segmentation of the dugong habitat by the project. In my written opinion, I strongly demanded that the ODB carry out these analyses. However, my opinion was neglected once again by the ODB and the EIS offers no rational explanation.
As long as the ODB cannot give any rational explanation for the non-appearance of dugong in the Sea of Henoko during the time of its study from August 2007 to April 2009, it is reasonable to consider that the Okinawa dugong population’s survival chances will be higher if the replacement project is abandoned and the segmentation of Okinawa dugong habitat along the east coast of Okinawa Island avoided.
I hereby declare that the EIS submitted by the Okinawa Defense Bureau does not fulfill the requirements set for the Department of Defense by the U.S. District Court (Northern District of California).
28 December 2011.