July 30, 2016
We are going to release an urgent statement to oppose the construction of the US military helipads being built in Okinawa’s most pristine forested region around Takae.
Please sign the following statement to protect the most precious biodiversity. The first release of the joint statement will be on August 3rd 2016.
We must act now to protect the precious biodiversity of the Yanbaru Forest and the lives of the people of Takae!
The construction of the US military helipads in Takae cannot continue!
‘Yanbaru’ is a subtropical forest spanning the Kunigami mountains in northern Okinawa. It is a refuge for many endemic species including the Yanbaru Kuina (or Okinawa Rail), an endangered flightless bird specific to this area. The forest has evolved its own unique ecosystem.
Yanbaru Forest meets the criteria for World Heritage Listing, ‘containing the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those providing habitat for threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.’
Takae, Higashi is a small village with a population of 150. The residents have lived a peaceful existence here surrounded by the beauty and abundance of nature. Believing Yanbaru to be 'the residence of the gods', they have both stood in awe of, and protected it.
However, the US Marine Corps, abetted by the Japanese government, are now in the process of constructing four more V-22 Osprey helipads in addition to two existing operational helipads. The construction is planned in a layout which will surround the residential area of Takae, and will require the removal of large swathes of forest and habitat. The sky above Takae now reverberates with the terrifying noise of Ospreys day and night.
In July 2016, the Japanese government sent 500 riot police to forcefully remove the non-violent protestors from conducting a peaceful “sit-in” so that construction of the remaining four helipads could proceed. These riot squads have used brutal violence which resulted in sending 3 protesters to ER by ambulances, including a male protester with broken rib and a female protester being choked . The Okinawa Defence Bureau also confiscated the protesters’ base tents and supplies received from supporters throughout Japan. The legal professionals have pointed out that the means resorted to by the Japanese Government over this period,
including the above-mentioned actions, have been highly illegal.
However, the Japanese mainstream media have barely covered this issue.
We demand that the governments of Japan and the United States immediately cease the construction of the helipads, and the trampling of human rights, the destruction of biodiversity and the interruption of the peaceful lives of Takae residents.
We urge the media in Japan and the world, to cover this human and ecological crisis in Takae, Kunigami, Okinawa and expose the truth to the public.
Finally, we make a plea to all global citizens with consciences, to raise their voices and take action to support the people of Takae, who continue their desperate struggle to protect the biodiversity contained within the precious Yanbaru forest.
 See below:
 The illegal acts being pointed out include 1) closing the public road that is under the jurisdiction of the prefecture and setting up checkpoints without clear reason or explanation, 2) confiscation of protesters’ base tents and supplies 3) suspicion of clearing the vegetation on the path leading to N1 (one of the designated construction sites) without prior consultation with the District Forest Office.
Signatories - as of July 30, 2016
Friends of the Earth Japan
Citizens against military bases in Churaumi and in Yanbaru
Environment Netwaork in Okinawa
Japan - US Citizens for OKINAWA Network(JUCON)
Save the Dugong Campaign Center(SDCC)
Ramsar Network Japan
APLA(Alternative People's Linkage in Asia)
Citizens' Council to Reform Public Works
Friends of the Earth Japan