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NGOs blast Japanese saltworks plans in whale sanctuary.

KYOTO, Nov. 30 Kyodo

Opposition to plans by Mitsubishi Corp. to build a saltworks within a protected whale sanctuary in Mexico is growing, and the issue has been tabled for debate at the ongoing World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting in Kyoto, civic groups said Monday. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from the United States and Mexico are mounting a campaign to oppose the construction of a salt evaporation facility in Mexico's El Vizcaino, a world heritage site listed as a breeding and wintering ground for the gray whale. NGOs have already called Japan hypocritical for its efforts to get the 21-nation WHC to add Japanese shrines and temples to the list while the country at the same time contributes to the destruction of sites in other countries. Aborigines are lobbying in Kyoto to prevent the Kakadu National Park in Australia's Northern Territory, already listed as a world heritage site, from being destroyed by a uranium mine to be developed in the park by a firm funded by Osaka-based Kansai Electric Power Co. The whale sanctuary of El Vizcaino, primarily the coastal lagoon of San Ignacio in the Baja California Peninsula, is the world's last undisturbed reproduction and calving area for the gray whale, and an important breeding ground for the harbor seal, California sea-lion and northern elephant seal. A joint venture by Mitsubishi and the Mexican government is conducting an environmental impact assessment survey in preparation to build the biggest industrial saltworks of its type in the world. ''If built, the saltworks may destroy habitat by changing the characteristics of the lagoon and the surrounding area through noise, population growth, physical disturbances and indirect economic development,'' the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said. The NRDC, which is based in Del Mar, California and has 400,000 members, is one of a group of NGOs seeking to have the sanctuary registered as a ''World Heritage in Danger.'' The group recently took out an ad in the New York Times exhorting readers to ''imagine'' a foreign company destroying the forest on Yakushima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, one of Japan's eight natural and cultural heritage sites on the list. Jacob Scherr, head of the NRDC's international program, lambasted Japan for being interested only in protecting its own sites. The meeting is being chaired by Japanese Ambassador to France Koichiro Matsuura and has drawn some 200 participants from all 21 member countries, about 40 observer countries, and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The World Heritage List is made up of 552 properties in 112 signatory states. The ongoing meeting will discuss the addition of 28 cultural sites, six natural sites and one mixed site to the list.
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Publication:Japan Science Scan
Date:Dec 7, 1998
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