Maehara: 48 of 56 dam projects to be frozen

No land purchases, building this fiscal year

Kyodo News

The government will freeze 48 of 56 dam construction projects across the nation this fiscal year after land minister Seiji Maehara on Friday ruled out signing contracts on land purchases or construction related to the schemes.

The 48 dam projects Maehara referred to are undertaken by the government either alone or together with the Japan Water Agency, a state-run body tasked with securing a stable supply of water for industrial development and major urban areas.

Maehara, the land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister, told a regular news conference that he will not allow the government or the agency to proceed to new levels with the projects during the current fiscal year to March 31.

He identified the new levels as land acquisition, support work for residents such as the construction of alternative roads, changes to the flow of rivers for dam construction and construction of the dams themselves.

The government and the water agency will not conclude contracts with corporations in these areas for the 48 dam projects during the current fiscal year, he said.

The fate of the suspended projects beyond fiscal 2010 will be decided in line with the budget-making process for the year, land ministry officials said.

On a further 87 state-subsidized dam construction projects undertaken by prefectural governments, Maehara said he will respect local governors’ decisions.

Maehara has already declared the cancellation of two dam projects — Yamba Dam in Gunma Prefecture and Kawabe River Dam in Kumamoto Prefecture — in line with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s election campaign pledge to do away with what it deems wasteful public works projects.

Last month, Maehara visited the Yamba Dam site in the town of Naganohara, Gunma Prefecture, to win over locals over the cancellation of the decades-old project.

But he met with strong objections, with all local leaders expressing anger and residents boycotting a planned session to exchange opinions with Maehara.

Calling the residents “absolute victims” of the policy change by the new administration and apologizing for the cancellation, Maehara told local leaders he wants to cancel the dam, one of the DPJ’s election pledges, for Japan’s sake.