New treaty will end Japan's ocean dumping of old bombs
December 21, 2003
OKINAWA — Every year, Japan finds unexploded ordnance, and to dispose of the bombs, it’s common practice to dump them into the ocean.
But a government environmental panel report released Thursday said a new protocol with stricter guidelines regarding dumping waste will force the country to find a new way to deal with the bombs.
The advisory report will be submitted to Japan’s Environment Minister Yuriko Koike on Monday, urging the government to ratify the new 1996 London Convention — a protocol regulating the dumping of material into the sea.
Unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S.-led Allied forces during World War II are found every year throughout Japan. About 80 percent of them are on Okinawa, where the only ground battle to take place on Japanese soil occurred, said Masafumi Takahashi, the Environmental Ministry’s Environmental Protection division deputy chief.
“Unlike the present [1972 protocol], the 1996 protocol bans, in principle, dumping all industrial and general wastes — including unexploded bombs — into the ocean,” he said.
He said 18 countries including Canada, Germany, Great Britain, South Korea and Spain have ratified the protocol. It’s expected to be enacted by 2004 or 2005.
“When it is ratified by 26 countries, the protocol will be enacted as an international rule,” he said.
“Japan is a nation that benefits from the ocean,” he said. “Therefore, we should not be hesitant or half-hearted to protect the ocean environment.”
He said the total amount of unexploded bombs Japan dumps in the ocean each year is 30 tons.
“The amount itself may be small, but this is a practice that no other countries conducts,” he said. “It must be ceased.”
Meanwhile, on Okinawa, the fuse of a 250-kilogram unexploded bomb is scheduled to be removed Sunday in Naha’s Nishi district, where the bomb was uncovered last month during construction work.
Traffic in areas including the Nishi, Kume and Higashi communities will be restricted between 9:45 a.m. and noon while a Japan Ground Self-Defense Force bomb squad defuses the bomb. More than 3,000 residents will evacuate their homes during those hours, as well.
Such defused bombs are first transported to a prefectural government operated storage facility in Yomitan, said a JGSDF spokesman in Naha.
He said the stored bombs are detonated once a year at a U.S. Marine Corps facility on Camp Schwab. About half of them are then encased in concrete and sunk into designated areas of the ocean, he said.