If there is a landslide, it could be as catastrophic as the one in Atami last year. …… It’s really frightening. All the locals are spending sleepless nights every time it rains.
Less than two hours drive east from the center of Fukuoka City. Soeda Town in Tagawa County, Fukuoka Prefecture, is a small town with a population of about 9,000 that once prospered from coal mining.
In Soeda Town, a 30-meter-high “fill” has appeared, and the residents are now screaming. The fill is much higher than the surrounding forest, and the huge brown mass can be seen even from a considerable distance away.
The residents are understandably concerned. Soeda, which is mostly mountainous, has always been prone to landslides. In August of last year, heavy rains caused soil and sand to flow into a house, causing an accident in which an elderly person was caught in the mud.
More than 40 houses are scattered around the area of the fill in question. When this magazine interviewed residents in the neighborhood, they said, “It’s getting bigger and bigger.
“It’s getting bigger and bigger.
Who will take responsibility if the soil collapses during a typhoon?
“The soil has been affected, and the quality of the vegetables has dropped.
More than 15 people voiced their sincere opinions one after another.
What in the world is this huge fill? Why did it appear?
The owner of the landfill is the Soeda Township government, and the landfill is located in the town of Soeda. The owner of the processing plant is a construction company from Oto Town, a neighboring town of Soeda Town. The company obtained a development permit in 2003, but the fill has rapidly grown in size over the past two to three years. The background is believed to be an increase in construction work in the area surrounding Tagawa,” said a reporter for a local newspaper.
According to Fukuoka Prefecture, which has jurisdiction over this soil disposal site, the fill exceeds the approved height of 25 m by as much as 6 m. The mayor of Soeda Town, Akio Teranishi, told this magazine, “The residents have asked us to increase the height of the soil fill.
I have heard residents complain about the danger of the fill. However, since the prefectural government is in charge of permitting and approval, the town has no way of making a move. Still, we have a sense of urgency that it is too late if something should happen. I feel the need to work more closely with the prefectural government to take countermeasures.”
An official in charge of forest conservation at Fukuoka Prefecture explains the current situation as follows.
We have conducted surveys at the site multiple times since around November ’20. As for the height exceeding the permitted height, since the beginning of this year, we have instructed them three times to restore the height. In response, the operator (who owns the treatment plant) has explained that ‘removal work during the rainy season poses the risk of landslides, so we will remove them as needed after the rainy season.
However, according to local residents, even after the end of the rainy season was announced, there is no indication that removal work is progressing at all. Why does the construction company continue to ignore repeated administrative guidance from the prefecture? The local residents are whispering about the background behind the situation.
The company is actually headed by the daughter-in-law of the mayor of Soeda’s neighboring town of Otomachi. The mayor of Daito-cho, Joji Nagahara, is also the head of the campaign headquarters for Ryota Takeda, a local member of the House of Representatives. He is also known as the “Don of Tagawa,” or a local bigwig. It is said that the presence of the mayor is the reason why the construction company can take a bullish stance.
Regarding the illegal giant fill, this magazine sent a written inquiry to the construction company in question and to the town of Otomachi, but received no response by the deadline.
It is still fresh in our minds that the Atami disaster last year raised the issue of sloppy fill management by the contractor and the government. Fortunately, no landslides occurred during the rainy season. However, the typhoon season is coming in the future. Unless the fill is lowered, sleepless nights are likely to continue for residents of Soeda Town.
From theJuly22, 2022issue ofFRIDAY