Fighting pollution

 
Published: Tuesday 31 October 2000

in response to an air pollution lawsuit filed against a Japanese public corporation, the Osaka high court has urged all the involved parties to overcome their differences and prevent the suit from continuing its slow passage through the courts. At least 379 residents of Amagasaki village, Hyogo district, are demanding about us $84 million as compensation from Hanshin Expressway Public Corporation. They are suffering from asthma which they allege was caused by exposure to exhaust fumes of vehicles plying on the Hanshin expressway. According to the judge, out of the 379 residents, 130 had already died. He said he was concerned that more would die before the issue was resolved.

The court said there was evidence that suspended particulate mater, most of which comes from exhaust fumes emitted by vehicles with diesel engines, causes and aggravates bronchial asthma. On January 31, 2000 the Kobe district court had ordered the government and the expressway corporation to compensate 50 of the residents. Both the sides had appealed the decision. After some time the residents said that they were willing to negotiate, but the government and the corporation simply stated that they would consider the court's recommendation.

To combat the problem, the government reduced toll fees on a section of the Hanshin expressway passing through less populated areas of Amagasaki hoping The court also directed the government to take measures to limit traffic pollution. However, the government and the highway challenged the court's contention and said that previous rulings in similar suits had not required to limit traffic flows.

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