Japanese anti-dam activism


I think this sort of story can be used to teach environmentalism in national context. Though there are, for instance, American, Chinese, and Indian anti-dam movements, each one grows out of a different national history and an idiosyncratic population of activists. It is too easy for American students to assume that the history of American environmentalism is the pattern for the whole world.

From the New York Times:

Grass-Roots Uprising Against River Dam Challenges Tokyo

HITOYOSHI, Japan — First, the farmers objected to an ambitious dam project proposed by the government, saying they did not need irrigation water from the reservoir. Then the commercial fishermen complained that fish would disappear if the Kawabe River’s twisting torrents were blocked. Environmentalists worried about losing the river’s scenic gorges. Soon, half of this city’s 34,000 residents had signed a petition opposing the $3.6 billion project.

In September, this rare grassroots uprising scored an even rarer victory when the governor of Kumamoto prefecture, a mountainous area of southern Japan, formally asked Tokyo to suspend construction. The Construction Ministry agreed, temporarily halting an undertaking that had already relocated a half-dozen small villages, though work on the dam itself had not started.

The suspension grabbed national headlines as one of the first times a local governor had succeeded in blocking a megaproject being built by the central government. It also turned the governor, Ikuo Kabashima, into a new emblem of a broader rethinking of Japan’s highly centralized style of government, in which Tokyo’s powerful ministries have held a tight grip on decision making all the way down to local levels.

“We can’t cower before the central government,” said Mr. Kabashima, a former politics professor.

Read the rest of the story.


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