• Kyodo

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Nagano Gov. Yasuo Tanaka on Tuesday in effect turned his back on Tokyo’s traditional dam-centered flood-control policy by annunciating a new environmental policy against dams.

Nagano Gov. Yasuo Tanaka at a news conference at the prefectural building

“From a long-term perspective, Nagano, located in the center of Japan and with numerous headsprings of rivers, should make every effort to avoid the construction of concrete dams,” Tanaka said in a prepared declaration. “Dams impose a heavy burden on the environment. From now on, we should build as few new dams as possible.”

Tanaka’s latest move forms part of a “dam-free Nagano” approach aimed at establishing a flood-control policy without the construction of more dams in the prefecture.

Tanaka has promoted the review of some ongoing dam projects in the prefecture, and His announcement may stir up controversy on the future course of the country’s flood-control policy.

Strong opposition from some local residents, who have called for dam projects to control floods and for financial reasons, is also expected.

In Tanaka’s statement, which he said was a basic policy guideline for his administration, the governor explained that concrete dam projects cost tens of billion of yen and overburden ecosystems.

“Even if other measures for flood control are more costly (than dams), more priority should be placed on the value of the (natural) river as an environmental asset for future generations in one or two hundreds years,” he said.

The novelist-turned-governor said he will essentially be scrapping plans for new reservoirs in the prefecture that are not already under construction.

Tanaka, 44, also said he hopes the policy will become known as the “Nagano model.”

Tanaka, elected last October, is the youngest governor in Japan. His election brought 41 years of prefectural governance by bureaucrats to an end.

He announced in November that he would suspend a 23-year-old plan to build the Asakawa Dam in a suburb of the city of Nagano.

Nagano is Japan’s third-largest prefecture and hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1998.

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