TOKYO, Sept 29 (NNN-NHK) – Japan’s Osaka District Court has ordered the central government and other parties to pay compensation to more than 120 plaintiffs.
A total of 128 plaintiffs, previously rejected from a special Minamata disease relief programme, as sufferers of the disease, were all recognised as Minamata disease patients by the court.
The court on Wednesday ruled that 2.75 million yen (18,400 U.S. dollars) must be paid to each of the plaintiffs by the central government, the prefectural government of Kumamoto, and chemical manufacturer Chisso, which caused the pollution.
For a twenty-year period starting around 1955, the plaintiffs lived in the south-western prefectures of Kumamoto and Kagoshima, where the mercury poisoning occurred, due to polluted industrial wastewater from a Chisso factory.
The plaintiffs, now living in 13 prefectures, mainly in the Kinki region in western Japan, had demanded 4.5 million yen (30,000 U.S. dollars) per person, claiming that they were unfairly excluded from the special programme.
The Japanese daily, Mainichi Shimbun, in an editorial yesterday, applauded the court’s dismissal of the government’s claim that the 20-year ruling had expired, by saying, there were cases in which symptoms developed long afterward.
“This is an appropriate decision based on the actual state of damage,” the editorial said.
The paper added that, “the government should move immediately to expand relief for sufferers rather than just wait for all judicial decisions to be delivered.”
The result is the first for a series of similar lawsuits filed with Tokyo, Niigata and Kumamoto district courts, as well as, the Osaka court, and is likely to influence the rulings to be issued later, according to local media.
Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, in a booklet concerning Minamata disease, said, it was “unprecedented in human history in terms of health damage,” which left behind “adverse effects across the local communities that lasted for a protracted period of time.”
“The entire incident constituted a bitter lesson for the government,” it noted.– NNN-NHK