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Mayor Fujita outside his office i n Kito , February 1997.

226

VILLAG E V S STAT E

I n the 1970s, the national faith i n growth - and i n the wisdom o f bureaucratic decisions on how to pursue i t - was almost absolute, and its influence was felt even i n Kito . After first declaring unanimous opposition i n October 1972, under pressure two years later the Village Assembly did what most other villages i n the same situation had done: i t yielded and adopted a 'Comprehensive Village Development Basic Plan' predicated upon construction o f the dam (i.e. extinction of the village). Gradually, however, the local community stirred and opposition spread. The Assembly was 'recalled' and following fresh elections i n December 1976 i t passed a resolution o f opposition to the dam. I n the teeth of immense pressure both from prefectural and central governments and from business groups, that resolve has held steady ever since.

Like all Japanese villages, Kito's self-governing rights under the constitution are severely constrained, especially by fiscal arrangements under which the proportion of taxes to be spent i n and for the village is determined at much higher levels. The authorities are therefore able to enforce submission to such projects by cutting allocations for public works i n vil lages. I n the early 1990s, as the Kito project entered its third inconclusive decade, the pressures escalated. When the Tokushima Prefectural Assembly i n December 1992 declared its intention to push ahead with construction and the then Kito mayor was seen to be vacillating, he was 'recalled', and replaced i n 1993 by the present mayor, Fujita. The Dam Survey Office was immediately upgraded to a 'Dam Construction Office', and provision for the works began to appear i n the national budget. A sense o f 'High Noon' enveloped the village.

Despite the odds, at the local level the opposition succeeded i n entrenching itself: i n September 1993 a petition for cancellation of the project was signed by 1,321 o f the local electorate's 1,781 people (74.2 per cent). A 'Kit o Village Basic Environmental Ordinance for the Protection of Nature and the Unpolluted River' and a 'Kit o Village Ordinance to Block Kito Dam' were adopted i n December of the following year. I n the elections o f January 1995 the anti-dam camp won 80 per cent of the votes and eight of the ten seats. On 22 June 1995 the village adopted its own 'dam-less' development plan and shortly afterwards set up a corporation, known as 'Kit o Herushikku' (Kito Healthy) which i n Apri l 1996 opened a factory producing soya bean-based cakes and ice-cream. Various means of promoting other local industries were also explored.

Beyond the village boundaries too, rivers began to be seen, not as bundles o f utilitarian functions but as living natural entities, organically linking mountains and sea and their adjacent communities. The rush to growth, i n whose name so much had been sacrificed for 20 years, began to be reassessed, and a sense of loss at the scars inflicted on the rivers, mountains and coast spread. A June 1995 prefecture-wide survey found that opposition to the dam was running at 41 per cent, and support at only 24 per cent.3

I n response to this changing mood and to the growing international attention being focussed on Japan's 'iron triangle' o f public works-centred corruption, criticism focussed on the hitherto absolute and unquestioned prerogatives o f the Ministry o f Construction. A system of public consultation to address particularly controversial projects was introduced. Late i n 1995, thirteen 'Deliberative Councils' were set up to advise continuance, amendment or cancellation of construction plans. Kito's long-unresolved dam was referred to one such council, but the mayor and his assembly, alone among other problem districts, refused to participate. The new council , they realized, would naturally lean towards the governor's nominees (the majority) and would serve as a new means for

The Ecologist, Vol . 27, No . 6, November/December 1997

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