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Peace at last: Hiroshima Pref. to drop controversial reclamation project (Mainichi)

FUKUYAMA, Hiroshima — After years of heated confrontations with local residents, the Hiroshima Prefectural Government has finally decided to abandon a controversial land reclamation project here, it has been learned.

The Hiroshima prefectural and Fukuyama municipal governments had been pushing a plan to reclaim about two hectares of Tomonoura Bay in the city of Fukuyama, and build a bridge right across it to reduce traffic congestion in the city.

The project was opposed by many residents who claimed that the bridge would destroy the local scenery, which has both historical and natural value. In 2007, a group of opponents filed a lawsuit demanding the prefectural governor be banned from issuing a reclamation license, which is required for launching any reclamation project.

In October 2009, the Hiroshima District Court ruled in favor of the residents group, claiming that the scenery should be considered “a national asset,” and ordered the prefectural governor not to issue the license. Later, however, the prefectural government appealed to the Hiroshima High Court, continuing the already heated battle between local authorities and residents.

The situation began to shift when Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki took office in November 2009, only about a month after the first court ruling. Since then, Yuzaki has been considering the planning of the Tomonoura area while holding 19 meetings with both pro- and anti-bridge resident groups between May 2010 and January this year.

The meetings compiled eight key points related to the construction, including consideration for preserving the scenery, disaster prevention policies, and maintenance of public roads and sewer systems. The prefectural government presented several plans, such as reclaiming parts of the area and building the bridge, as well as constructing an undersea and mountain tunnels with several routes, which it discussed with the Fukuyama Municipal Government. Yuzaki and Fukuyama Mayor Akira Hada met three times to discuss the proposals, though Hada was firmly in favor of the initial project, and a final decision on the plan was left to Yuzaki.

According to sources close to the situation, Gov. Yuzaki is currently considering withdrawing the reclamation plan, which was submitted to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism for approval, as well as dropping its appeal to the Hiroshima High Court. The prefectural government is further expected to advance talks with residents over an alternative to the original project that could involve constructing tunnels near the mountains of Tomonoura. Yuzaki is expected to inform Hada of his decision on June 25.

Tomonoura, on the southeastern point of the Numakuma Peninsula and a core part of Seto Inland Sea National Park, is surrounded by mountains and has a splendid view of the sea. Known as a prosperous port since ancient times, the area’s beautiful landscape had inspired a poem included in “Manyoshu,” (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), a mid-8th century anthology of ancient poems. More recently, renowned animation director Hayao Miyazaki is said to have planned his 2008 film “Gake no ue no Ponyo” (Ponyo on the Cliff) while staying in the area.

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