They Started Suddenly Without Agreement

Weather forecasters reported the end of the rainy season in early June. Ten days ahead of this announcement, however, the Kawabe River Dam Construction Site Office suddenly dashed into action building a by-pass tunnel so as to create a dry area upon which to build the foundation for the Kawabe River Dam.
This dam project was first planned in 1966--31 years ago--for the purpose of controlling flooding. In 1967, the Ministry of Construction then altered the original purpose to include irrigation channels and electricity generation which it was hoped would further spur the rapid growth of the Japanese economy at that time. However, as time has passed since then, Japan and her agricultural conditions have changed so much that the plan has lost its original purpose. Nevertheless, the "iron triangle" of politicians, sub-contractors and bureaucrats have neglected the project's many contradictions and suddenly started the by-pass tunnel construction. Their primary duty to protect the people in area has become invisible and all that can be seen are the fringe-benefits for those involved in the project.

The Ministry of Construction announced that they would implement the project paying careful attention to the environment. However, they have never taken any action to preserve the environment. Also, although they say the project should be carried out with the full agreement of those who live alongside the river, they have never listened to the voices of farmers involved in irrigation projects.

On August 4, 1994, the Ministry of Construction stated that they would never proceed with building the dam at all. However, on this May 23rd, 1997--without following clear procedures and without gaining the agreement of local fishers--the sub-contractors started to cut the mountain to put in the tunnel by-pass. NGOs have been criticizing the government for its inconsistency.

Four Doubts Held by NGOs

Flood control
Thanks to the completed flood control levees and the growth of new trees that had been planted, the possibility of flooding has decreased dramatically. In July, 1995, the kind of rain that the
Construction Ministry said would flood the area if the dam were not built (440 millimeters of
rain/2days) fell, but there was no flood. However, the completion of the Kawabe River Dam will raise the risk of a great flood due to the possibility of simultaneous discharge with the Ichifusa Dam, located on the upper part of the Kuma River.

There are four hydroelectric power generators in operation along the Kawabe River. With the completion of the Kawabe River Dam, each of these will be either covered under water or cease operations. The Kawabe River Dam generator that is to replace these generators will produce less electricity
(16,500kw/sec.) than the four existing generators do at present (18,900kw/sec).

The Agriculture Ministry is promoting "The State-Run Comprehensive Kawabe River Reclamation Project," in which the water from the Kawabe River Dam reservoir will be used for irrigation. However, most farmers in this area have enough water for farming already, and do not need any additional irrigation facilities.

On June 23, 1996, 866 farmers who questioned the necessity of the "State-Run Comprehensive Kawabe River Reclamation Project" sued the Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture had stated that the project was originally developed at the request of local farmers, and that in order to pursue the project, it had been necessary to gain the support of two-thirds of the farmers that would be affected by the project. However, during the process for gaining agreement from the farmers, various pressure tactics and deceptions were employed, resulting in the fact that in December, 1994, 1144 farmers filed an objection with the Minister of Agriculture. However, in March, 1996, the Ministry of Agriculture rejected this objection.

On top of the country's complicated agricultural subsidy policies, farmers suffer from the lack of profit resulting from the opening up of Japan's agricultural markets, from the aging of the farming population and from the lack of successors to carry on a family's farming activities. One can thus hear farmers who receive water saying "I have no confidence that I can make enough profit from the farming to cover the water fees" or "I don't want to continue farming if have to pay such high water fees."

In 1994, when there was a big dry spell, there was almost no harvest in the area where people were getting water from the Ichifusa Dam on the Kuma River. Despite this, there was a plentiful harvest in the area where farmers got their water from the Kawabe River which had no dam at all. Most of the farmers in this area are even at present receiving enough water to satisfy their needs. The head of the Kyushu Agricultural Policy Bureau, Saburo Imori, said that "In our investigation, there were no problems in the way that agreement was secured from the farmers."

Eagles on the Verge of Extinction
The Ministry of Construction admits that a rare species of eagle has been found nesting within three kilometers of the selected by-pass site.NGO members insist this area should be left as it was, since they have also seen some infant birds being fed by their parents. However, the Ministry will not acknowledge the adverse effects of explosions used in building the by-pass. Neither will they respond directly to questions posed by NGOs working to preserve the local habitat.

Great Waste of Tax

The Construction Ministry has already spent 113 billion yen (about 1 billion dollars) from 1969 to 1996 on ancillary costs, mainly the building of roads and bridges in the local area, clearing of land for new housing for displaced villagers, and compensation to residents for loss of their land. This amount already spent, which includes no costs for the construction of the dam itself, is equivalent to what the Construction Ministry estimated in 1987 as the cost of the dam project in its entirety. The Construction Ministry now says that the total cost of the dam project is "under consideration."

We "Citizens for Saving the Kawabe" asked in our last symposium held on May 25th, "Who will be benefited by the construction of this dam?" We must make it clear that this dam will never make people happy, but will be a great burden for our descendents in the 21st century.