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Land minister Akihiro Ohata on Sunday visited the site of a controversial dam construction project in eastern Japan which the government is currently studying whether or not to implement.

After visiting the Yamba Dam construction site in the town of Naganohara in Gunma Prefecture for the first time since he was appointed land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister in mid-January, Ohata met with Gunma Gov. Masaaki Osawa and other local officials seeking early resumption of the project, but their talks remained stalemated.

Ohata reiterated the government’s stance of making a decision “without preconceptions” on the basis of its current research to be completed around the fall, but Osawa told him, “The local people expect the construction project to be completed as soon as possible.”

Ohata’s trip follows one by his predecessor Sumio Mabuchi last November.

Yamba Dam, located north of Tokyo, has been decades in the making, but Mabuchi’s predecessor Seiji Maehara, who is now foreign minister, said in September 2009 that the Democratic Party of Japan-led government would call off the project.

Canceling the project, which was among the pledges the DPJ made before taking power in the general election in August 2009, has been at the center of the DPJ-led government’s drive to scrap dozens of public works projects it considers wasteful.

But when Mabuchi visited the construction site in November, he effectively dropped the plan to cancel the project, saying the land ministry will examine the matter and that a conclusion would be drawn “around autumn” of 2011.

Since Ohata took over the ministerial post, he has indicated that he will follow Mabuchi’s basic plan on the matter.

In seeking the resumption of construction work, the local representatives told Ohata on Sunday that they need to see “a big advance so we can trust the central government.”

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