By Takayuki Tsujii, Patagonia Japan
All technology has merits and harmful effects. The same applies to dams that came into existence over 50 years ago. But the detrimental impact brought upon by dams has become increasingly conspicuous in recent years. Because of this, discussions have started to take place in the U.S. regarding the necessity of dams—from economical, environmental and cultural perspectives—with some of these discussions resulting in the actual removal of unnecessary dams. Such stories and movements can be seen in the movie DamNation.
There are currently 2,800 dams in Japan. Structures over 15 meters tall are considered dams in Japan. If we include smaller structures, it is said there are close to 100,000 dams. It is a fact that dams played many significant roles in the economic growth and national prosperity of this country after World War II. However, once we entered the 21st century, the downside of dams became much more obvious – they choke our river ecosystems, destroy fish and wildlife habitats and degrade water quality, while often providing limited benefit as these concrete structures get older and, quite simply, outlast their value. Unfortunately, the administration in Japan has never conducted an objective, scientific evaluation on the necessity of existing dams.
Despite this lack of research, there are over 80 dams being planned right now. Among those, the Ishiki Dam being planned for construction in Nagasaki prefecture’s Kawatana-cho poses serious environmental, economic and human rights concerns. These are issues that we Japanese must take a hard look at.
Above: “Koubaru”, the area slated to be submerged by the construction of Ishiki Dam. The Ishiki River running alongside the road is too small and narrow to be visible. Photo: Yoshiaki Murayama