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20 March 2003
The 1st International Workshop on Military Activities and the Environment (IWME)
Okinawa University, Okinawa, Japan/ Mar 19-23, 2003
Analysis of Environmental Policy and Programs related to military activities

20 March 2003
The 1st International Workshop on Military Activities and the
Environment (IWME)
Okinawa University, Okinawa, Japan/ Mar 19-23, 2003
Analysis of Environmental Policy and Programs related to military

Threats of the US Military Base Constructions
to Dugong, Okinawa Woodpecker, and Okinawa Rail
of Okinawa Island

Shin-ichi HANAWA
(WWF Japan)

1. Dugong (Dugong dugon)

The Dugong (Dugong dugon) is distributed from Australia through Asia, in
the Indian Ocean, and along the east coast of Africa. However, in East
Asia it appears that the Dugong has become extinct in Taiwan and in the
Yaeyama and Amami Island groups in Japan.1) In Japan at present, the
Dugong is observed only at Okinawa Island, making Okinawa Island the
northernmost limit of its distribution. Observations of Dugong at
Okinawa Island are most numerous along the northern and central portions
of its east coast, and these areas are thought to be year-round
habitats2)3). Observations have been particularly numerous in the area
offshore Henoko, part of Nago City. The status of Dugong in Okinawa is
that of a local population confined to a very small area of
distribution, isolated from other populations, very few in number, and
very much in danger of extinction. Okinawa's Dugong is one of the
critically endangered species4) and natural monument4) in Japan.

One of the serious problems complicating conservation of Okinawa's
Dugong is a plan to construct a military air base for use by the United
States Marines Corps (to replace Futenma air base, also on Okinawa
Island). In July 2002, the Government of Japan and Okinawa Prefecture
made a decision of the basic plan to landfill a coral reef and seagrass
area about 1 kilometer offshore of Henoko and construct a 2,500 meter
long, 730 meter wide military air base on top of the landfill6). The
decided construction site for this military air base is located in the
central portion of the Dugong's habitat in Okinawa Island. It would not
only bisect the habitat, but would also destroy seagrass beds that
function as important feeding grounds, coral reefs that serve as resting
sites, and canals between both site for the Dugong. This dangerous plan
will mean life or death for the Dugong. It would most likely speed up
even further the process of extinction.

At present, the environmental impact assessment (EIA) is going to carry
out. However, in Japan, EIA is conducted after the basic plan for the
air base is decided on. The EIA will consider neither alternate plans
nor zero option, and conclude that impacts on the Dugong will be
insignificant, or, for example, that compensatory measures such as
relocating the seagrass beds will be possible. Even if the military
airport construction plan were unjustifiable, it is very likely that it
would be approved under these procedures.

However, from a scientific standpoint, implementation of an EIA
consistent with international standards and in keeping with an IUCN
(World Conservation Union) Recommendation on Okinawa's Dugong (Amman,
October 2000) is needed. The EIA should not be carried out after the
basic plan for the air base is decided on, but before that decision is
made. It should also take into consideration the zero option of no
construction, as well as several alternative sites other than the
proposed site at Henoko. A scientific EIA that meets international
standards and is carried out with the participation not only of Japanese
but also of United States experts would no doubt make clear the
injustice and inappropriateness of constructing a military air base in
the middle of this Dugong habitat.

Another serious problem is incidental bycatch. Corpses of Dugong that
appear to have been caught in fishing nets occasionally wash ashore7).
The death of even one individual of such an extremely small population,
thought to be under 50 4), can speed up the rate of extinction and is an
extremely worrisome event. Thanks to the efforts of local people,
meetings and rescuing exercises among local government authorities,
fishing cooperatives and environmental NGOs have recently been held in
Ginoza village in Okinawa, and a manual for rescuing Dugong caught in
fishing nets has been drawn up. Results from these efforts should be

In an independent initiative, Japan's Ministry of Environment is
progressing slowly their conservation activities. In 2001, the authority
for Dugong conservation was moved from the Fishery Agency to the MoE and
they established for the first time a committee of the comprehensive
survey of Okinawa's Dugong and their habitat. In 2002, they decided to
include Dugong to the Wildlife Protection Law for protected mammal, and
started their field survey. We would expect the results and evaluations
of MoE's survey affected to the Cabinet who decided to replace Futenma
air base, and they change their policy.

2.Okinawa Woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchii) and Okinawa Rail
(Gallirallus okinawae)

Okinawa Woodpecker (Noguchi-gera, sapheopipo noguchii) and Okinawa Rail
(Yambaru-kuina, gallirallus okinawae) are the endemic species of the
Yambaru forest, the northern part of Okinawa Island. These two species
of birds survive only at Yambaru on the earth. The distribution area and
the population size are so small that they are strongly threatened and
in danger of the extinction. Okinawa Woodpecker is a special natural
monument and a critically endangered species in Red Data Book, Okinawa
Rail is an endangered species in RDB and a natural monument5)8).

Northern Training Area (NTA or Jungle Warfare Training Center) located
by the US Marine Corps residing in Okinawa keeps in the good condition
the typical natural forests of the northern Okinawa Island, and it
consists an important habitat for many of the endemic species and
sub-species such as Okinawa Woodpecker, Okinawa Rail, and others. Of
course, the USMC leaves a natural forest not only because it sets this
area as a reserve, but it is necessary in case of military affair
training. However, since the returning of Okinawa to Japan in 1972, the
natural forests in Yambaru have been lost in many areas due to logging,
and development of dams and agricultural fields. The natural forest in
the NTA, with the coverage of ca. 8,000 ha, thus comes to bear a role of
the real refuge. This has serious meaning to conserve the endemic
biodiversity which is only in Yambaru on the earth

Because the ca. 4,000 ha area of the northern half of the NTA will, in
the near future, be returned to Japan, it is planned to remove seven
helicopter landing zones (helipads) from the return area to the un-
returned area. Although the current landing zone is a naked place (the
weed) with 10 - 20 m diameter for the small helicopter and the road is a
small walkway or a narrow roadway (unpaved), the planned landing zones
are the huge facilities (the lawn) with the 75 m diameter to be used for
the large-sized vertical taking off and landing machine (OSPREY), and
there is possibility that two zones are built in adjacent site in some
case. Also, the road which link landing zones will be paved of crushed

In the light of this, it is more realistic to regard this as not being a
mere moving, but establishing a new base with tens of times of scales
and doing an advanced practice. The influence over the natural
environment and the wildlife must be taken from this viewpoint. So far,
the NTA has served the role of the refuge for the wildlife there, but
the new plan abandons its role, and rather, would subject the natural
environment and the wildlife to cruel conditions, through the
large-scale setup of the helicopter landing zone and the advanced
military training operations.

At present, "the Continuous Environment Survey" is implemented by the
Japan's Defense Agency9), but in keeping with an IUCN recommendation,
survey should be carried out with the participation of the United States
scientists, and should implement an EIA consistent with international
standard. Also, it is necessary to implement an EIA from the
comprehensive viewpoint including the relation to the other facilities
and the military practice, e.g. the dams, sand-preventing dykes and the
ground practice of the USMC, in addition to the helicopter landing
zones. Moreover, it is expected that the Strategic Environmental Impact
Assessment would be done which put the specification of a World Heritage
Site in view in addition to the use as the USMC base, because there are
not few endemic species inhabiting only this area on the earth.

3.IUCN Recommendations

 The IUCN (World Conservation Union) recommendations are below10).

 The World Conservation Congress at its 2nd Session in Amman, Jordan,
4-11 October 2000:
1. URGES the Government of Japan:
a) to complete as soon as possible the voluntary Environmental Impact
Assessment on the construction of the military facilities in and around
the habitat of the Dugong;
b) to implement as soon as possible Dugong conservation measures that
will help stop further reduction of the population and help its
c) to prepare as soon as possible a conservation plan for the
biodiversity and endangered species of the Yambaru and the local Dugong
population, and conduct detailed studies of these species and their
d) to consider nomination of the Yambaru as a World Heritage Site;
2. URGES the Government of the United States of America to cooperate on
the voluntary Environmental Impact Assessment, as requested by the
Government of Japan.
3. URGES the Governments of Japan and the United States of America:
a) to take into account the findings of the voluntary Environmental
Impact Assessment and on this basis take appropriate measures to help
ensure the survival of the Dugong population;
b) to assess environmental effects of proposed construction of military
facilities and training plans, taking into account the studies referred
to in subpara 1 (c), and on this bases take appropriate measures to help
ensure the survival of the Okinawa Woodpecker and Okinawa Rail.

4. Refference

1) Marsh,H., H.Penrose, C.Eros, and J.Hugues. 2002. Dugong status report
and action plans for countries and territories.
2) Kasuya, T., H. Ogawa, H. Yokochi, T. Hosokawa, M. Shirakihara and
H.Higashi. 1999. Japanese dugongs, their current status and conservation
measures required. Report of 1999 dugong survey. In: 9th Report of
Pro-Natura Fund. Japanese Association Protection of Nature, Tokyo. [In
Japanese with English summary]
3) Kasuya T. and R.L.Brownell,Jr . (submitted to MMS). Consevation
status and the future prospects of Dugong in Japanese water.
4) Mammalogical Society of Japan. 1997. Red data book of Japanese
mammal. Bunichi-sogo shuppan.
5) Okinawa Prefecture. 1996. Threatened wildlife in Okinawa (RDB).
Okinawa Prefecture.
6) Defense Agency of Japan. 2002. Materials on the basic plan to replace
Futenma air base.
7) Dugong Network Okinawa. 2001. For the Protection of Dugong offshore
Okinawa (materialU). Dugong Network Okinawa, 49pp.
8) Japan's Ministry of Environment. 2002. Threatened wildlife of Japan
(Red Data Book 2nd ed.). Japan Wildlife Research Center.
9) Naha Defense Facility Bureau. 2002. Methods of the continued
environmental survey for the replace of helipads in NTA.
10) IUCN. 2001. Resolutions and recommendations ( World Conservation
Congress 2000, Amman, Jordan)

 For contacts;
Shin-ichi Hanawa;
World Wide Fund for Nature Japan (WWF-Japan)