The city of Minamata in Kumamoto Prefecture held a memorial service for all the victims of the disease named after the city, to commemorate the 57th year since the government officially recognized the disfiguring disease as an industrial pollutant. Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima led the ceremony that was attended by around 750 people who have been affected by it.
Gov. Kabahima also “gravely accepted” the Supreme Court’s decision last April 16 to provide relief for a more widely defined range of people suffering from Minamata’s disease and hopes to come up with a new recognition system based on this decision to “pave the way (for wider relief).” The disease is considered one of the country’s worst industrial illnesses and was traced to water that was tainted by the mercury that Chisso Corp., now called Shin-Nippon Chisso Hiryo K.K., released into Minamata Bay. Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara apologized on behalf of the government for failing to stop the spread of the disease.
As of Tuesday, there have been 2,976 officially recognized sufferers of Minamata’s disease, which also includes those who have been poisoned in Niigata Prefecture by Showa Denko K.K. There were a lot of cases where people sued so they can be recognized as sufferers of the disease so the government decided in 1995 to give “relief money” that has now been accepted by 11,000 people. There are still 65,000 who have applied for the relief under a new special law that came into effect by 2010.
Kumamoto is also hosting a conference in October which will be attended by 800 representatives from 140 countries. They will be signing and adopting the Minamata Convention which should help prevent mercury poisoning and pollution so that what happened in Minamata will never happen again.
[ via Jiji Press ]