The government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is considering a proposal from Japan to lease Pagan, a beautiful and biologically unique island, as a dumping ground for tons of tsunami debris.  This is after it was originally slated by the US Military as a warfare training ground and ballistic testing site (not a good option either).  For an island nation, limited in land,  burying one of its most beautiful and diverse islands with garbage from Japan is not only environmentally unconscionable, but is degrading to the people of the CNMI.

Pagan Island

Pagan Island

Close your eyes and transport yourself to a desert island in the South Pacific.  Swaying palm trees, expansive beaches, and fringing coral reefs, all topped with a steaming volcano.  This island is teeming with life; by day beautiful birds and butterflies abound, by night huge bats feed on abundant fruit. In the shade of coco palms, stone ruins of a culture long extinct persist.  While this might seem like an idyllic image straight out of a post WWII Hollywood movie, places like this do exist.  While not free of ecological problems, as a result of a tumultuous human past, Pagan Island fits this description to a tee.

Mariana Fruit Bat on Pagan Island

Pagan is one of the largest and most biologically and geologically diverse islands in the Mariana Archipelago.  Three volcanic cones constitute the landmass of Pagan, of which the highest, Mount Pagan, is active and produces a constant cloud of steam and ash.  Of the native and endemic flora and fauna of the Marianas, Pagan is host to many of them; including threatened and endangered species, such as the single island endemic subspecies of the Mariana fruit bat, the endemic Micronesian megapode, the threatened tree snail Partula gibba, leatherback, loggerhead, hawksbill, and green sea turtles.  Already confined to a small island archipelago, the island biota of the Northern Mariana Islands are under siege by human induced habitat destruction, especially on the more populated islands of Guam, Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

Mount Pagan

Sunrise Over Mount Pagan

Indigenous human habitation of Pagan dates back some 3000 years, and has been intermittent based on commercial exploitation by various foreign colonizers, beginning with the Spanish discovery of the islands by Megellan in 1521.  More recently, Japan occupied Pagan during WWII, settling some 2000 soldiers and indenturing the indigenous Chamorro population to work in pozzolan mines (volcanic ash used in the manufacture of cement).  After the surrender of the Japanese garrison in 1945, the US administered the Northern Mariana Islands. In the 1950s, parts of Pagan became a copra farm and cattle ranch, of which efforts were abandoned in the 1970s.  In 1981, the eruption of Mount Pagan forced the remaining local population to relocate to Saipan.  Since that eruption, Pagan has remained largely uninhabited.

With the recent relocation of US military personnel from Japan to Guam, and the subsequent military build up in the islands, the US military set its sights on Pagan as a place for warfare training and ballistic testing.  While it is unclear if this is still in the works, the Government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is considering leasing Pagan Island to Japanese investors to dump tons of tsunami debris, and mine millions of tons of pozzolan.   The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is a small land-limited island nation.   Turning one of their most biologically diverse islands into a permanent garbage dump for a wealthy country is an ill-fated and atrocious act.

Marianas Honeyeater on Pagan Island


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40 responses to “

  1. Marino

    Pagan is a BEAUTIFUL island! It’s where u call PARADISE! Why would others want to destroy the beauty of it?! NONSENSE I SHALL SAY! SO GO DUMP YOUR TRASH SOMEWHERE ELSE! PEACE…

  2. “…burying one of its most beautiful islands with garbage from Japan is not only environmentally unconscionable but is degrading to the people of the CNMI.”

    It’s degrading to all of the Marianas – Guam too!

    • I will change it to include Guam too. Thank you for the perspective.

    • March 2014

      Though the Forum of the South Pacific Commission has no jurisdiction over the Marianas , it speaks with a loud voice among the nations of the world. I suggest the people of the Marianas should complain to the SPC and seek their help in restraining the Governor ( and Japan ) for such dessecration. Fight on and keep Pagan clean.

  3. Brandon

    Save Pågan Island! Attention Guåhan, Luta, Tini’an, Sa’ipan! Please sign this petition to PROTECT Japan’s proposal to the C.N.M.I. Government to use Pågan Island as a DUMPING SITE for the debris left over by Tsunami, Earthquake that happened not to long ago which affect Japan! SIGN THIS PETITION TO STOP IT! Why can’t Japan just have one of THEIR OWN ISLANDS as a DUMPING GROUND! PROTECT OUR SINAHI ARCHIPELAGO! SPREAD THE WORD AND SIGN THE PETITION VIA THE LINK!

  4. dee

    R u kidding me?!?!? Y would someone destroy an island so beautiful!!! I strongly say NO!!! Stop trying to destroy everything… there r other issues to worry about in the cnmi then japan problems!!!

  5. mike

    If Japan can build an island for an airport on their ocean, they should just build an other island and dumb all their waste including the redioactive waste from their nuclear power plans. It is their main intention is to remove all nuclear waste from their country since their country is againts it so they wanted as far away from Japan. The people of the CNMI sould protest any agreement with any country thats going to do more damages to their islands. If those countries wouldn’t do it in their back yard. No country shall do it in the CNMI.

  6. Japan should be a good neighbor an clean it’s mess. By doing this it would preserve the ecosystem. An maintain the beauty of this island! Don’t trash Pagan Island..

  7. ANOTHER STUPID IDEA!! from Fitials administration!!! When are you all going to come up with any good ideas that will bring business back and lift up the economy that is already knocking on Hell’s door??!!! Better yet, why don’t you all just go away!!! the CNMI cannot afford you!!!.. you cannot blame previous administrations because you all have been the previous administrations… you just keep taking turns destroying the CNMI’s economy while keeping yourselves rich!!! oh yeah… NO JAPANESE TRASH ALLOWED ON PAGAN!!!! NO JAPANESE TRASH ALLOWED ON PAGAN!!!!

  8. Paka Ray Meno

    Wow, this is not good at all.

  9. WEEZE

    Man!!!! go dump your shit somewhere else! are there any alternatives from letting this happen!!!!?

  10. Lynyrd Lizama Puyat

    We need to save what is left of our archipelago. We are destroying our lands and oceans, from Guahan to Sa’ipan. All the development in the name of “progress” is destroying the environment that maintained life for thousands of years.

    I do not support mining or proposing to dump radioactive or not, debris and dumps on our islands. We have enough pollution from the military and activity in our islands. Who wants to live in a concrete jungle of an island, or dump island?

  11. Jayce Labampa

    F&@# off Japan. Don’t mess with our islands!

  12. J

    CNMI citizens had better begin a serious protest. Garbage and debri is bad enough….but if they start slipping in radioactive waste as well….where does the NMI legislature stand?

  13. please stop raping and exploiting what little resources we have in the northern mariana islands. LEAVE US ALONE!!! KEEP YOUR GARBAGE IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD!!!!!!!!

  14. LadyHawk

    Not that any place on earth deserves toxic waste, but can we possibly dump it in uninhabited areas of the Arctic or Antarctica instead?

  15. bob

    All must email, twitter, facebook,etc. not only friends but most important is your congresmen and senators, only they call the shots at this level.

  16. Marc

    What a joke! Pagan is one of the prettiest islands I have had the chance to see. Shame on anyone who would even consider turning this place into a target practice or a garbage dump!

  17. CaptD

    Boycott Japanese Radioactive Pollution!

    They must not share their Nuclear waste any more!

  18. M.EENS

    Is the financially stricken CNMI that desperate for money?? Your land, that land, “PAGAN” and all the rest of the chain is PRICELESS!!

  19. ea25id

    Reblogged this on Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and commented:
    Is this for real?

  20. Thomas Coleman

    We need to save the entire CNMI. Under Fitial’s dictatorship, we all are dying. Pagan is part of this. Look at the whole picture. This is only part of it.

  21. Rayme Baybe

    Hellooooooooooooooooo! Isn’t it enough that they are bombing one of our Farallon de Mendinilla! Isn’t it enough that they have taken three of our most pristine (islands) northern most islands for the Marianas Trench Monument for President Bush! Isn’t it enough that they are sending the soldiers over from Okinawa Japan! It is in my blood to fight for what is due to our people and our islands! We will not let these beautiful islands go just like that! So to all of you my Refaluwasch and Chamorro people, lets stand firm together and stop these invaders from ruining our very essence of having freedom, peace, and harmony with mother earth’s finest group of islands here in the deepest trench of the world. “GOD IS ITS CREATION: PEOPLE IS ITS CREMATION!”
    Humbly yours,
    Rayme Baybe Kapileo of Laly 4

  22. The Murfman (former resident)

    I see alot of stupid comments by uniformed people here! Before you hate hear what i have to say. Pagan is the most BEAUTIFUL island i have seen in the CNMI! I have seen them all including Uracas that doesn’t mean that the people who have never been to these islands opinions are of anyless importantance. But lets be intellegent about this comments that use profanity should be removed blaming this person or that should be removed. This I supposed to be about saving a beautiful island. Its not intended for political slams. And ideas to dump it on the artic how is that about protecting the enviroment And turning it into a landfill would be a crime even. Pagan already has been mistreated and ignored for years. For example those of us that have been there know about barrels of used oil left and forgotten the tar spill on the airport equipment left to rot away in a failed mining attempt. The first thing we need to look at is getting the means for the people of these islands to be able to reside there with their families. For example schools,some form of emergency medical support transportation. Most of the residents who have kids go months without seeing them to be on their island. So anything positive about saving the island i want to hear. NO MORE TRASH. And no more talking trash be part of the solution not the problem. I lived in Pagan for two years and hate the idea of a beautiful place being destroted anywhere.

  23. Lanna Boy

    Chamorros should resettle the island and grow food instead of getting food stamps or raping it for pozolan.

  24. Neal

    Why are our citizens acting as if not empowered?! “The Government” is not a dictatorship! Doesn’t “Common Wealth” mean a political community founded for the common good, public welfare? If the CWNMI cannot, immediately see … the destruction of our islands … then get those officials out of there!!! Why is this even an issue? Is it really that much of an effort to tell these foreign intruders to step off? If the trash and debris is not good enough to place on Japanese soil … why is our islands even considered? And the military … training ground? After two world wars, numerous conflicts, war in Middle East … how was training done then? Step off intruders … to your thing in your own back yard!

  25. hafaphret

    Who gave the Authorization to Destroy / Trash our Islands and Why?
    I was in Maui,Hawaii, when the US Navy were Bombing the Island of Kahoolawe in the “60s, I was back there recently and was Proud to know that it is Returned back to the Hawaii’ans,

  26. Completely rediculous. Japan should take responsibility for their own trash and leave this beautiful island to the people of the CNMI! It made me sick to see the devastation of kaho-olawe. Destroying our natural habitats is not right.

  27. What a terrible shame! It seems that governments don’t learn and keep making terrible mistakes that affect us all. I lived on Maui back when they were still bombing Kahoolawe. The ground used to shake and we were all so distressed at what they were doing.

    • Suzanne,
      I think you are stretching it just a bit on the feeling “Maui” shake. I was Explosive Ordnance Disposal and used to escort ‘Ohana” to Kahoolawe when it was still a bombing Island, as well as conducting “Explosive Ordnance Disposal.” There was one test where they simulated exploding a nuclear weapon using conventional explosives and yes, the “blowhole” as it was called when I was there was huge. A ,massive crater which I think was probably felt on all neighboring islands, other than that, only 500 pound bombs were dropped–nothing larger. I used to love going to the Island. Flown there on Helo, Camped at the beach, and took hikers up Luamakika, an extinct volcano, to other parts on the Island. Will never be able to remove all unexploded ordnance, could only guarantee to ten feet, and that changes whenever there is heavy rain–erosion unearths more UXO (Unexploded Ordnance). I hope Pagan Island remains trash and explosive free. Micronesia is pristine lying out of the Pacific Current, radiation from Fukishima has not contaminated the fisheries of Micronesia. Suzanne, I miss Kahoolawe, but not Hawaii, Hawaiians hate whites almost as much as ISIS hates Christians, you can have the place. Although, myself and another EOD Technician did make the Maui news once, we were escorting Ohana over and they gave us “Kahoolawe Stop The Bombing T-Shirts” we had them on when we were participating in a dance with Ohana women on the Island. Was always two of us, and participating in events with the Ohana was normal, excellent pig cookouts, etc. Unknowing to us, there was a reporter with the Ohana group and we were filmed wearing the t-shirts. Needless to say, we heard about it from our command. All were informed we could no longer accept gifts from the Ohana

  28. Mike

    Leaders in CNMI need to stop being money hungry! Then it’ll get better.

  29. Larry Morrow

    All ‘Money Baggers’ and politicians should be eliminated, they only want to be rich, instantly, no thought of tomorrow or of the people, they are trash!

  30. Louie

    Pagan is a beautiful island created by Mother Nature! It’s a place for us to treasure and admire it’s natural beauty! Not to let people dump their trash there and ruin it. SAVE PAGAN!!


    I AM A Chamorro Native Descendant from the Island of Saipan, CNMI. I for one, would love to have my kids experience & explore our neighboring SCENIC JEWEL Islands (That I would visit hopefully soon). We live in a very NATURAL BEAUTIFUL, EXQUISITE surrounding that has to be protected in the SAKE OF THE FUTURE FOR “OUR CHILDREN” together we must protect our heritage, our culture, our history – the Island plants, wild life & the most that I am grateful for from the man up above is our clean waters – The islands ecosystems that we NEED TO PROTECT together with ALL IT’S other “NATURAL RESOURCES”..
    WE ASK THAT YOU LEAVE OUR PEOPLE & ISLANDS ALONE….Throw your rubbish in/at your own back yard & not OURS..Chamorro, Refaluwasch & all others that was born & raised on our Beautiful NMI stand together & kick these OUTOFTHEYMINDS peoples, OUT of OUR TERRITORY AS..ONE LOVE..!!

  32. Pagan is a beautiful Island, and I would love to see it in person one day. Japan needs to handle their own garbage, and not turn an entire chain of Islands into their waster dump. One Island would lead to another “Waste Dump,” and I would expect nuclear waste as well. I would expect a source of revenue for a few officials in Micronesia to benefit from, at the expense of everyone else. I worked on Kahoolawe island in Hawaii when it was still an active bombing Island before being given back to the State of Hawaii, forget it, as much as people would like to repopulate the island, even conventional explosives have toxicity which contaminates–all explosives are toxic. Could only be cleared of Unexploded Ordnance to ten feet. I know, I was Explosive Ordnance Disposal. Have always remembered the Island of Kahoolawe.
    Micronesia needs the best protection possible, the waters around Micronesia are probably the only area free of contamination from Fukishima. Pacific current brought all the garbage from Japan and dumped it in Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon, California, all from the Pacific current which encircles the Pacific. Reason would imply being out of teh current, the fisheries would be healthier. Tuna from Pacific as well as all other species which migrate are all showing contamination from Fukishima. Species which remain in Micronesian waters should be contamination free, being the Pacific Current doesn’t flow through Micronesia. Protect Pagan, and the Pristine Fisheries of Micronesia.

  33. Scott

    Kahoolawe Island “Stop the Bombing” was initiated by the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana PKO, filing a lawsuit regarding the bombing, and environmental impact, cultural damage etc., resulting in them being granted access to the Island monthly, provided they were escorted by EOD personnel. Had a great time on Kahoolawe, and providing escort .Is unbelievable, an Island in Pagan’s state of preservation would be even considered as a place for Japan to dump their garbage, or strip the ash for cement to China, or for the States to use for bombing. Keep Pagan as it is. Best of luck to all supporting Pagan Island. ( Don’t tell any of my friends I’m supporting a “liberal” cause. I don’t usually stand on the same side with liberals, but when it comes to environmental protection, and Pagan Island is a magnificent Island, I stand firmly with liberals on this one.

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