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Japan's top court orders retrial over controversial Isahaya Bay floodgate dispute

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the Isahaya Bay reclamation project and their lawyers enter the Supreme Court on Sept. 13, 2019. (Mainichi/Junichi Sasaki)

TOKYO -- The Supreme Court has overturned a lower court ruling that sided with the national government in a legal battle between the state and fishermen over floodgates at a dike in Isahaya Bay in southwestern Japan, which was built in a controversial reclamation project.

In a decision on Sept. 13, the top court's Second Petty Bench ordered the Fukuoka High Court to retry the case.

The complicated case involves an approximately 253 billion yen state-run project to reclaim much of Isahaya Bay in Nagasaki Prefecture to develop some 670 hectares of farmland and an about 2,600-hectare reservoir to secure water for agriculture.

After the floodgates were closed, local fishermen filed a lawsuit demanding that they be opened on the grounds that their catches have been adversely affected by the project. On the other hand, local farmers launched a suit, opposing the opening of the floodgates, citing possible salt damage to their agricultural products.

In December 2010, the Fukuoka High Court ruled in favor of the fishermen, ordering that the floodgates be opened. The ruling was finalized after the then government led by the Democratic Party of Japan, which was critical of the project, decided not to appeal it.

However, another judicial ruling in favor of the farmers was subsequently handed down, banning the central government from opening the gates.

Caught between the two opposing rulings, the government led by the coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito launched a lawsuit with the Saga District Court in January 2014, demanding that the ruling ordering that the floodgates be opened be nullified.

The district court dismissed the lawsuit in December 2014. However, the Fukuoka High Court upheld the state's claim, scrapping the district court decision.

(Japanese original by Akira Hattori, City News Department)

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