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

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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 VILLAG E V S STAT E

The rich farmland o f Kit o village - much o f which would have been lost to the waters.

strive for mastery over it. 6

ensuring local compliance. After twenty-five years and a dozen formal resolutions o f opposition to the dam, Fujita could argue not unreasonably that the stance o f his village was clear and non-negotiable.

A so-called 'multi-purpose dam', this one wil l be designed to provide water both for irrigation and for industrial and 'town ' water uses. Critics point out, however, that early predictions about the demand for both have been drastically reduced, and scholars increasingly prefer the prescription o f increased attention to forest care upstream and conservation downstream.7 Fujita himself stresses the amenity value o f the Kito forests i n terms of their contribution to combating global warming, preventing erosion, regulating river flow, etc. Taking the figure for the 'ecological services' performed by the entirety o f Japan's forests and paddies as Y40 trillion , he assesses the worth o f Kito at one per cent o f this, or Y40 bil ­

Flood prevention is the main reason given for needing the dam. The Ministry o f Construction concedes that adequate coverage already exists against a 'once i n 30 or 40 years' scale flood, but argues that downstream communities should be protected against the hypothetical event o f a 'once i n 100 years' flood following torrential rainfall i n the headwaters.4 Basing itself on figures which indicated a maximum historic flow of 9,000 mms per second - i n the typhoon o f 1950 - i t set 11,200 mms per second as the hypothetical force which the dam should be built to withstand.

lion. 8 This may seem a somewhat arbitrary figure, but the Y40 trillio n is a relatively conservative one. Katsuya Fukuoka, Dean o f Economics at Rissho University, puts a figure o f Y60 trillio n on the environmenta l nationa l amenity benefits o f Japan's farmland alone.9 Fujita also points out that the existing dams built downstream on the

The rush to growth, in whose name so much had been sacrificed for 20 years, began to be reassessed, and a sense of loss

The sheer naivete o f presuming to be able to construct a human environment impregnable to nature is breathtaking. Although some flooding i n unprotected areas has occurred during the post-war period, the river's dikes have never been breached. Furthermore, when a 'once i n 150 years' record 1,114 mms of rain did fall one day i n 1976, the damage that resulted was due to a 'back-wash' o f waters, blocked from their natural flow by another dam (Kominono). A n accumulation of silt forced the water back upstream, thereby flooding Kito Village; in short, i t was the dam that caused the damage, not the rain.5 I n any event, a hypothetical case, such as the Ministry presents, is by definition impossible to contradict. Al l that can be said with certainty is that, i f once a '100-year proofing' of the river were achieved, the Ministry would then turn itself, like the 1980s 'Star Wars' experts i n Washington, to work on coping with a hypothetical 'once i n 1,000 years' storm. The fact is that the 'proofing' system has not worked on other rivers, and that nature is not predictable. Twenty-five years of intensive propaganda have not convinced the residents of the river basin that they need to be 'nature-proofed', and opinion surveys show a growing national consensus that i t is preferable to adapt to nature rather than at the scars inflicted on the rivers,

mountains and coast spread.

Naka River i n the 1950s and 1960s had filled with silt at three times the planned or anticipated rate,10 while the severance o f the flow o f nutrients and silt to the river mouth had severely eroded the estuary and devastated the once-rich fisheries. None o f these costs had been considered i n the original dam construction estimates.

Fujita and his village compatriots can look around them at the situation on the lower reaches of their river, which is already dammed, and at the experience of dams i n other parts of the country. What they see is that dams have served to destroy the life of Japan's rivers, to decimate the population of mountain and up-country districts, and probably to increase flooding. When representatives of Kyushu towns i n which dams had been built gathered in August 1992 for the first time to discuss their experience o f being dammed, they reached a consensus that no village had ever flourished thanks to a dam, and that the social

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

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