• Kyodo

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A district court here turned down Thursday a suit filed by residents who said it was illegal for the Mie Prefectural Government to spend taxpayers’ money on repaying construction debts for the controversial Nagara River Dam.

The plaintiffs, led by Masando Narita, a member of the city assembly of Kuwana, argued that the prefecture’s decision in 1995 to put up 35.5 billion yen for the dam’s construction was illegal.

The prefectural government made the decision on the assumption that water from the dam would be put to industrial use, but Narita said the decision was illegal because there was no demand for the water at local industrial plants.

In dismissing the suit, presiding Judge Keiichi Uchida of the Tsu District Court said the possibility of such demand emerging in the future could not be ruled out.

The plaintiffs plan to appeal.

“The Nagara River Dam is a symbol of the government’s wasteful public works projects,” Narita said after the ruling. “We provided objective data proving that there is no water demand for industrial use, but the court made an incorrect judgment by failing to properly evaluate the evidence.”

Construction of the Nagara Dam began in 1988, with the 661-meter facility, located 5.4 km from the river’s estuary, starting full-scale operations in 1995 amid criticism it was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Of the 150 billion yen total construction cost, Mie Prefecture has decided to cover 35.5 billion yen. Adjacent Aichi Prefecture is providing 50 billion yen in exchange for water from the dam for industrial use.

To this day, however, water from the dam is used only for tap water and there is no demand for use at industrial plants.

The Mie government transferred the 35.5 billion yen from its general account to a special account in 1995 and started paying its share of the construction cost.

In the suit filed in 1999, the plaintiffs urged the court to stop Mie from future scheduled payments of 19 billion yen and to return 3.3 billion yen that it had already paid.

In January 2000, the Tsu District Court turned down the suit, saying the matter was not appropriate for a lawsuit filed by residents against a local government.

But in July that year, the Nagoya High Court moved the case back to the same district court, saying local residents have the power to file suits on matters involving the use of taxpayers’ money.

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