• Kyodo

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Residents of Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture, submitted a request Monday to hold a plebiscite on the proposed construction of a major dam on a river upstream from the city, a residents’ group said.

The group has collected more than 16,000 signatures to make the request to the municipal election committee of Hitoyoshi, which has some 30,000 eligible voters.

A petition for a plebiscite requires the signatures of at least one-50th of the eligible voters or around 600 in the case of Hitoyoshi. The government in July 1996 unveiled plans to build a dam on the Kawabe River, which flows into the Kuma River. Hitoyoshi is located on the Kuma River, and residents fear the dam would destroy the local white-water rafting industry.

The planned dam, which the government says is intended for irrigation, would be one of the largest in Kyushu, creating a reservoir with a capacity of 133 million cu. meters of water.

After checking the signatures for authenticity, the election committee will submit an official request for the plebiscite to Mayor Kosuke Fukunaga.

Masuo Kudo, head of the citizens’ group, said: “The construction of the dam is a major issue for Hitoyoshi residents. All the citizens should join in making a decision.”

The assembly of Sakamoto village, which is further downstream on the Kuma River, in June voted down a request for a plebiscite on the dam project.

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