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2008年11月13日 (木)


2008/11/13 --The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 12(IHT/Asahi: November 13,2008)

EDITORIAL: Useless dam projects


The heads of four prefectural governments in the Kinki region expressed their opposition Tuesday to a dam project in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, promoted by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.


Prefectural governors Toru Hashimoto of Osaka, Keiji Yamada of Kyoto and Yukiko Kada of Shiga joined by Vice Governor Kenji Ebata of Mie Prefecture expressed collective opposition to construction of the Daidogawa dam in the Yodogawa river system. This is a watershed development, following in the footsteps of Kumamoto Governor Ikuo Kabashima's rejection in September of a dam for the Kawabegawa river.


The envisioned Daidogawa dam on the upper reaches of the Yodogawa system is a multipurpose project drawn up in 1968 to handle flood control, irrigation and electric power generation. The total projected cost was 108 billion yen. However, with Osaka Prefecture having withdrawn from the irrigation phase because it has sufficient water supplies, the sole remaining objective is flood control. This same saga was played out in the case of the Kawabegawa dam.


Citing limited flood control benefits, the Yodogawa river basin committee, an expert panel formed to study the issue, has recommended that construction of this and the three other dams in the project be halted. The conclusion drawn by the governors on the Daidogawa dam is in keeping with this sentiment. The land ministry should immediately cancel the construction.


With river policy characterized by complex interlocking interests, it is significant that four prefectural leaders have united in this common course of action. Another landmark is the consensus reached for flood precautions if the Daidogawa dam plan is scrapped--namely, to utilize existing dams and otherwise share available wisdom and expertise.


Had authorities in the upper and lower reaches of the rivers started to bicker, the land ministry would step in and run the show. Such conflicts are cited as one reason critical decisions cannot be consigned to local governments, putting a damper on efforts to transfer administrative powers to local authorities.


The governors' rejection can also be read as a backlash against the Kinki Regional Development Bureau, the local arm of the ministry that essentially manages major public works projects in this district.


Project priorities will naturally differ for regions with limited revenue sources. The list of pressing needs includes earthquake proofing of schools, childrearing assistance and other good causes. Yet, the central government rushed dams and other such projects under its direct control to the top of its list. Through their opposition, the governors are asserting that local leaders chosen in elections should determine local policy preferences.



The massive costs of these government-spearheaded projects also place a heavy burden on localities. The regions would have been obliged to pick up 30 percent of the price tag for the dams. The total bill for the four Yodogawa system dams would be around 380 billion yen. Osaka, shouldering the heaviest burden among the four prefectures, would need to pay tens of billions of yen from here on. For a financially strapped local government currently 5 trillion yen in debt, there are no such funds available.


For these projects, the Diet should have determined the need and made selections based on strict standards. Against this backdrop, three public works reform bills readied by the main opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) for submission to the current Diet session bear watching.



The measures would freeze all dams being advanced by the ministry for two years to check their necessity, while requiring Diet approval for public works projects costing 10 billion yen or more.


We strongly support passage of those bills. The Diet must address the "nay" votes issued by a growing number of prefectural leaders.




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