250-Year-Old Estuary Should Not Be Replaced
A Japanese prefecture called "Tokushima" can be translated as Moral from
'toku' and Island from 'shima'. 'Moral Island' in Japanese. The reality
might not be necessarily so.
The Yoshino River, the longest river in Tokushima, has the oldest
architecture, a 250-year-old estuary fixed on the river bottom. The
Construction Ministry and Tokushima Prefectural government want to tear
down this heritage and has planed to build a new movable estuary.
[Committee Established By Construction Ministry]
The Yoshino River Daiju Estuary Construction Project Deliberation Commit
was established in September 18, 1995, under "Dam/Estuary Reevaluation
System" implemented by the Construction Ministry since June 30, 1995.
"Daiju" is originally the name of the old estuary. It have been repaired
and used for the past 250 years. And the Ministry has named the new proj
"Yoshino River Daiju Estuary Reconstruction Project". For that name, the
local people did not know for a long time that this project actually mea
to end the sustainable maintenance.
The public found out about it when one local community group noticed it
held the Yoshino River Symposium focusing on this issue. The symposium
organizing group leader, Masayoshi Himeno, who is also a judicial
scrivener, says, "What we want is absolute public participation and
information disclosure in this project."
The Deliberation Committee was far from what they wanted. It was
exclusively "open" to the members of Prefecture Government Press Club,
claiming the public can be informed through media reports. And the
committee members were consisted of Governor of Tokushima Prefecture and
multiple sets of mayors and chairmen of reparian town assemblies. The re
were a media person, a layer, a head of a National University and other
academics with no experience in the environmental study, all of whom the
Governor of Tokushima Prefecture chose according to the guideline drawn
the Construction Ministry.
Citizen groups pointed out the most of the members are in favor of the
project and demanded reconsideration of member selection. Even the media
person in the committee joined the demand but the demand was ignored.
Scornful smiles appeared among citizens when the Ministry referred the
committee as "open" deliberation in their own written materials. The pub
and the local media kept demanding for the true open committee and gaine
10 bonus seats for the public to observe from the third committee held o
February 7, 1996. From then on, the interested public have to stand in l
each time to pull a lottery to be one of ten observers. They can not tak
the provided material and data home after observing the committee.
[Alternative Proposed By Citezens]
All through the time, community groups have called for information
disclosure and alternatives. During the symposium they held, they propos
an alternative. Instead of building a new movable estuary, they said, "W
don't we repair the existing 250 year-old-estuary?", by which the
environment and the heritage can be preserved.
After this symposium the Ministry suddenly presented the several
alternatives to serve the purpose of the new estuary, which they say is
flood control, to the fifth (!!) committee held on the December 6, 1996.
They were (1) repair the existing fixed estuary (2) build a new movable
estuary (3) build a new fixed estuary vertically to the water flow at th
point of 14.5 km form the river mouth (the existing one stands slant at
km from the river mouth) (4) move dikes to widen the river (5) move the
fork point of the Former-Yoshino River up to Kakihara. According to the
comparison among the five options presented by the Ministry to the
committee, building a new movable estuary takes the smallest cost of 9,
billion yen and the shortest construction period of 10 years, while
widening the river cost the most and repairing the existing estuary take
"We can not help saying the committee is held just to follow the scenar
'It Has To Be The New Movable Estuary, Nothing Else' written by the
Construction Ministry", says Toshio Kida, an assemblymen from Aizumi-Cho,
one of the reparian towns in his minute of town assembly in December 199
[Is Tokushima Moral Island?]
Under these circumstances, on March 4, 1997, the Governor of Tokushima,
Sumio Endo, held a press conference and stated "Objectively and
scientifically speaking, the movable estuary is the best option. From no
on I will maintain so." The statement have been received with surprise a
criticism among the protest groups.
Tokushima has been closely watched by the Japanese anti-river-damming
activists for another dam project. With more than 80 percent of Kito
Village residents against the project for the past 25 years, the Village
Assembly has voted for resolution of "Against the Hosogouchi Dam
Construction Project". Also the village mayor Megumi Fujita has stated
clearly to the Tokushima Prefectural Government, the Construction Minist
the public and the media that building the Hosogouchi Dam makes no sense
terms of national economy and the local environment and has out-of-dated
purpose. And "If built", the mayor emphasizes, "it will destroy the whol
village and will nail down the environment around the Naka River", where
there are four dams built along for the past 50 years. The Construction
Minister stated in Diet Sessions in February and March, 1997 that they
would take alternative solution into consideration, which sounds promisi
but is no promise.