Japan Election Results: Yamba Dam Project Suspended


Photos from The Association of Concerned Citizens For Yamba Dam Project

The results of Japan's election on Sunday amounted to a "revolution" as the Democratic Party of Japan won a landslide, if I have ever seen one. And already, there is change in the air. Yamba, a major dam project, initially proposed in 1952, costing tax payers some 321.7 billion yen, has been postponed to the joy of local activists, according to The Asahi:

...the DPJ, which pulled off a landslide victory in the Lower House election Sunday, has pledged to "drastically review large-scale public works projects that fail to meet the needs of the times." The Yanba dam is one of the projects expected to be axed under the new DPJ administration. Hiroaki Taniguchi, vice minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, told reporters Monday that the ministry would "comply with the instructions of the new minister." Other public works projects, including the Kawabegawa Dam in Kumamoto Prefecture, could face a similar fate.

So, are we totally against all hydro projects?
This is a part of the valley that would be submerged if the Yamba Dam is built

Today, outgoing land minister Kazuyoshi Kaneko says, "I would like the next minister to think of the Yamba Dam as an important source of water and from the standpoint of flood control in terms of 50 or 100 years."

The project has been promoted as a means to prevent flooding along the Tonegawa river system. Also, securing water resources for the Tokyo metropolitan area was added as a key reason for the project.

Tetsunari Iida, executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP), Japan, notes in an article over at Japan for Sustainability:

Natural energy includes energy of solar origin and geothermal energy meaning magma heat as well as wind, wave and tidal energy. However, some types of renewable energy cannot be classified into sustainable natural energy. For example, large-scale power generation by hydroelectric dams, typically the Three Gorges Dam in China, and multi-purpose dams, represented by Yanba Dam in Japan, does not emit CO2 but exerts a significantly bad influence upon rivers and other natural, living and social environment. Therefore, hydro energy cannot be indiscriminately categorized into natural energy.


The Kawarayu Hotspring would also be submerged if the dam is built

The project could benefit some 30 million people in Tokyo and Saitama, Chiba, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures, but activists resent the huge damage to the natural environment:

Yamba Dam will submerge the Kawarayu Onsen hot spring which boasts a history reaching back 800 years and residents of the hot spring town fiercely opposed the project and formed a movement to oppose the dam with the residents of farming villages in the surrounding area in 1965.

The dam would flood an area of 316 hectares, require 422 households to relocate, and affect the lives of 1,100 residents, according to The Association of Concerned Citizens For Yamba Dam Project (English website, with a French website as well). I have friends who told me last week they were going to attend a court hearing tomorrow regarding this project, they are thrilled with this news.

As we noted previously, many rural towns and communities can benefit from hydroelectric power solutions, especially small scale projects that don't require massive investments, and there are many examples in Japan of towns deciding to go micro-hydro and install small power plants.

More Off-Grid Micro-Hydro Energy:
Generating Off-Grid Power: The Four Best Ways
XelaTeco: Green Power for a Guatemalan Village
The Success Of "Small is Beautiful" In Nepal
Hydro Power Without the Dams: Ontario Invests in Free Flow Underwater Turbines

Brought to you by Martin Frid at greenz.jp

Tags: Alternative Energy | Japan | Tokyo

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