The Extent of Minamata

Minamata Team 015 1-Daily Blog Post, Blog, Minamata Unit 2015, Reports March 1, 2015

For the past days of this field exercise, we went to important locations throughout Minamata City. Today, we went outside of Minamata and into Amakusa City particularly by taking a boat trip to the Goshoura Island(御所浦島), which was initially not recognized as part of the areas affected with the Minamata Disease. Upon arriving, a tour guide took us to the borders of the island to show the fishes’ migratory routes and the fishermen’s hometowns to show how this could explain why methyl mercury disposed from the Chisso factory in Minamata reached surrounding islands that are tens of kilometers away.

map2

Adapted based on data from Shiranui Minamata Disease Patients Association (水俣病不知火患者会)

After which, we were able to listen to two organizations that fought for the rights of the victims of the Minamata Disease. The first one, Shiranui Minamata Disease Patients Association (水俣病不知火患者会), is calling for changes in the structure of the compensation mechanism so that it will be more inclusive of patients with less specific symptoms. The second organization- the Minamata Disease Patient Alliance(水俣病患者連合)– clarified to us that they do not put much emphasis on the exact value of the monetary compensation given to the victims. For them, it is now more important that all demands for relief of all victims, no matter how small their symptoms may be, would be catered to instead of being particular in choosing the victims who could benefit from high monetary compensations. Hence, they suggest that Chisso Corporation would provide medical care and public services. An example to the latter is a ferry that is scheduled to go to and from their island every day; they think this would largely help the economy of the island. For the organization, the ultimate goal is achieving back the human dignity of the victims and unity among the communities as they were before the disaster happened. After meeting with all these organizations, we wished that there is more initiative from the government. As one patient shared, it is ironic how even up to today, the offenders are the ones deciding for the sufferers.

Our study on the geographical extent of the disaster was completed with a trip at the end of the day to the top of a hill where we had a bird’s eye view of the islands involved.

Author: Angeli Guadalupe; Figure by Joanne Khew; Photo taken by Minamata Unit 2015; Contributors: Mahdi Ikhlayel, Heng Yi Teah, Joanne Khew