by Doug Morrison
The Kawabe River dam project was first proposed in 1966. Its original aims were to provide flood control, hydro-electricity and irrigation. But with these no longer relevant, debate rages over whether the project should go ahead – ruining a beautiful area in the process. What do you think?
From what is written in the newspapers and on various websites (both official and NGO), we can glean some facts. Based on a 40-year-old plan, this 107.5-metre monolith will flood enough river valleys to create a 391-hectare reservoir and cost somewhere in the vicinity of ｴ265 billion (or US$2.4 billion). There are two official reasons for justifying this mega-project. The first is to provide a water reserve for local farmers, and the second is to prevent flooding downstream. A trip to this lush, fertile area will soon clarify how ridiculous the plan is to provide irrigation. Further, like most rural areas in Japan, Itsuki-mura and the surrounding hamlets are suffering from depopulation and a drain of young people. Ironically, the project has forced a number of people to leave the area and scared off anyone thinking of moving there. While driving through and hiking in the area it’s clear that extensive timber harvesting, reforestation and road building have continued for decades. The natural forests have been scalped to shockingly high elevations on slopes so steep it’s amazing the replanted trees have survived at all. Add some torrential downpours to that situation, and it’s no wonder there was flooding in the past. Not only will the dam represent a colossal waste of public funds, but risk environmental damage that could wipe out unique flora and fauna as well as threaten the sweetfish populations in the Kuma River.
I believe it is time to recognize this as yet another poorly thought out “make work” project. A fair distribution of wealth is needed in any healthy society, but these [former PM] Kakuei Tanaka-style mega-projects are not the way to do it.
To learn more about the Kawabe River dam project, visit this website: www2.kumagaku.ac.jp/teacher/~masden/kawabe.html.