The plaintiffs’ case was brought against the Japanese Construction Ministry, the Environment Agency and the Hanshin Expressway Public Corporation. An appeal is expected.

In an editorial commenting on the ruling, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said that “it is time to reconsider the sense of priorities in public works that focuses on road construction”. The court ruled that heavy traffic “is not simply a nuisance to peoples’ daily lives, but it is also illegal to a considerable degree”.

Originally, 379 plaintiffs demanded nearly 9.26 billion yen in compensation as well as a ban on suspended particle matter (SPM) in vehicle exhausts. Osaka High Court found in favour of 50 plaintiffs who live and/or work within 50m of Route 43 and the Hanshin Expressway. A total of 333 million yen in compensation was set, with central government and the Hanshin Expressway Public Corporation both required to contribute to the compensation fund.

The court also ordered restrictions on diesel vehicles as a way of ensuring that SPM levels do not exceed 0.15mg per day.

A separate settlement was reached by the plaintiffs with nine companies – including electricity generators, steel mills, chemical and glass manufacturers – over factory emissions.

Asahi Shimbun praises the Environment Agency for its plans to measure particles levels this spring, and is hopeful that the Agency will undertake a national epidemiological study, but also believes these measures should have been taken much earlier.

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