The Yomiuri ShimbunThe government will back efforts by a nongovernmental organization (NGO) to prevent oil leaks from sunken wartime vessels in waters off the Truk Islands in the Pacific Ocean, according to sources.
About 40 former Imperial Japanese Navy ships sank following air raids by U.S. forces during the Pacific War in waters near the Truk Islands — now Chuuk State in the Federated States of Micronesia.
In a bid to prevent oil leaks from the sunken ships, the government will back measures to tackle marine pollution. The government will use official development assistance to fund activities by a Japanese NGO, with the project scheduled to begin next month.
Seventy-two years after the end of the war, the government affirmed the necessity of dealing with the leaks as corrosion of the ships on the seabed advances.
According to the Foreign Ministry and other sources, the government will fund the project for three years through the end of March 2020. The ministry will provide roughly ¥94 million to the Japan Mine Action Service (JMAS), a Tokyo-based NGO staffed mainly by former Self-Defense Forces personnel, for the first year. This is the ministry’s first such funding of efforts to clean up sunken wartime vessels in the Pacific region. The assistance is expected to total about ¥300 million.
In 1969, before Mirconesia became independent, the Japanese and U.S. governments both committed ¥1.8 billion each to improving welfare services for local residents.
The Japanese government subsequently concluded that the payments resolved the issue of postwar compensation to Micronesia.
However, the Japanese government determined that the most recent measures were necessary to protect the environment and thus decided to fund the NGO.
JMAS plans to use sonar and other devices to detect the location of 11 sunken ships, including large vessels that are the most likely to leak oil, and estimate the amount of remaining oil onboard. JMAS divers will then inspect each vessel’s condition before filling holes in the hull.
They will also use special materials to extract oil inside the vessels before taking the oil back to their own ships.
JMAS has previously succeeded in removing unexploded bombs from a wrecked wartime vessel in Palau.
In February 1944, U.S. aircraft carrier units attacked the Truk Islands, the location of a base for the combined fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy. About 40 vessels, including tankers and destroyers, sank with oil aboard.
The location is now regarded as an important tourist resource as it is popular with divers seeking a close view of the sunken ships. However, several instances of leaking oil have been reported in recent years due to advancing corrosion of the vessels.
In his address to the United Nations in 2011, Micronesia’s president at the time, Emanuel Mori, described the oil aboard the sunken ships as a “ticking environmental time bomb.”
He appealed to the international community to deal with the leaking, saying in his speech, “It will also adversely impact our tourism industry, which depends largely on coral and shipwreck diving.”
A JMAS member in charge of the assistance program said: “There is still a lot we don’t know about the circumstances of the sunken ships, but it is true that leaking has already occurred. We’d like to act quickly and contribute to the local community.”Speech
Source: Google News : http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003835401