"Reforming a part of the River Law (skeleton draft)" by the Construction Ministry provided in February 1997 and criticisms by citizens

1. Add "River Environment Management (maintenance) and Preservation" as a purpose of the River Law and introduce River Maintenance Planning reflecting upon local opinions.

(1)To respond to the public demand for diversified natural environment and water front area around the rivers, in addition to "flood control" and "water use" as purposes of the river management, introduce "maintenance and preservation of river environment (such as water quality, scenery and ecosystem, etc)".*

(2)New Planning System
-River Maintenance Policy (long term policy)
The Construction Ministry makes decisions based on the deliberation conducted by The River Committee regarding basic items as estimated run-off.
-River Maintenance Planning (individual maintenance plan)
The Construction Ministry decides on individual maintenance plans of dams and dikes reflecting opinions of mayors and governors of local administrative districts and local residents.**

*Criticism on 1 (1)
What the Construction Ministry seeks for from this item is so-called "Multi-Nature Construction Method", or Tashizen Koho in Japanese. It refers, instead of covering banks and river beds by artificial material such as concrete, to create natural looking environment by "covering" with "natural looking material" such as trees, wood, grass and rocks, etc.

But without the knowledge and consideration of holistic ecosystem, --for example introduced plant could damage the original nature --and without precise indication of them in the law it ends up giving excuses for more construction works and "fake environment" which is no better than "concrete" bank.

In other words Tashizen Koho is to secure construction work under the circumstances where appropriate locations for dams become scarce, protests become bigger and it is getting difficult for the Construction Ministry plans new dam projects. Funny fact: As we Japanese environmentalist criticize against "Tashizen Koho", the government has just started used another word for it, such as "The New Construction Method"!!!

**Criticism on (2)
The period of "individual maintenance plan" means "20~30 years" according to the Construction Ministry. Automatically, "long term policy" should mean at least 50~100 year-planning. Then it is impossible for the public to realize realistic and responsible participation in longer planning in their life time. Also if the basic long term plan is set by the Ministry without alternative proposals by the citizens at the early stage, it would be almost impossible for the public to take part in the decision-making process.

2. Procedure for smooth adjustment for water use in case of extraordinary draught

To promote water use adjustment, water users are to consult to each others*** and the Construction Ministry is to make effort to provide information and simplify the necessary permission procedure for water use adjustment.

Back ground information***
***"Each other" should mean Agricultural Forestry and Fishery Ministry, Health and Welfare Ministry, Resource Development Public Corporation (tentative translation for Mizushigenkaihatsu Kodan) and etc.. The Construction Ministry, however, failed to clarify them in detail as they are said to have lost in the argument during consultation (not open to the public) with other ministries and compromised much. It can be said that situation for efficient water use adjustment will not be more efficient than it is now.

3. Maintenance of belts of trees along dikes and around dams
To maintain and promote function of dikes and water reservoirs, maintain or preserve the belts of trees along dikes and around dams as river control facilities.****

Criticism on 3****
This should be done by the Environmental Agency not the Construction Ministry. And the wording ‘facilities" is not appropriate. This item is considered as an effort to expand their authority and to have another big piece of pie.

4. Others
In the event of water pollution accident, such as oil spill, polluters are to clean up and pay the cost of cleaning.
Construction Ministry can sell or dispose illegal mooring boats and ships with prompt procedure.

Paragraphs that start with * marks are opinions discussed or researched by Water Resource Development Issue National Network, or Suigen Kaihatsu Mondai Zenkoku Renrakukai, and River Law Reforming Citizens Conference, both based in Tokyo, Japan

Atsuko Masano@atsukom@mrj.biglobe.ne.jp