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【JWF News Vol.180】4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit “1 Year to Go Event” on 19 October!


【JWF News Vol. 180】4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit “1 Year to Go Event” on 19 October!
16 October 2019


◇ Contents ◇

・Foreword Evolution in River Governance in Japan – Drastic change of relationship with civil organizations –

・Announcement from the Japan Water Forum
– 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit “1 Year to Go Event” on 19 October!

・Bulletin Board


・Foreword Evolution in River Governance in Japan  – Drastic change of relationship with civil organizations –
By Kotaro Takemura, Chair of the Japan Water Forum


Seminars for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan (MLIT)
Over the past decade, I have been giving lectures under the theme of “river management in future” at the seminar house of MLIT. There, my juniors in MLIT from ministerial organizations and agencies across Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa get together to attend the seminar. My lecture however is more like a frank talk as their senior advisor.

One day at the seminar, I said on the whim, “Are there any cases of conflict with an environmental civil organization in your district?” To my surprise, nobody raised a hand. I asked the same question again, thinking they must have misheard me. But the only reply to my repeated question was a puzzled look on their faces. So, I said once again, “You really don’t have any such disputes in your district, do you?” They nodded as assurance. I gathered finally that nowadays there is no conflict between local river-governing authorities and environmental civil organizations over the river field. It made me shocked as they are living in a world where things are now radically different from what I had been through.

Evolution of River Governance
Thirty years earlier, I was in the middle of struggles in the construction project for the Nagaragawa Estuary Barrage that was under control of the River Bureau of the Ministry of Construction (currently, MLIT). Metaphorically speaking, the then river governance was driven into a corner, almost on the ropes, of the boxing ring. Even the members of the ministry took a pessimistic view for the future of the River Bureau due to severe conflicts with environmental organizations. It was, so to speak, a turning point for the cornered river governance of Japan and the change of the direction had been made gradually since then: technical and environmental documents for the Nagaragawa Estuary Barrage project were newly prepared and released publicly. Public roundtable meetings were carried out repeatedly where the participants were surrounded by TV cameras reporting the discussions. Full information disclosure of observation data was made as well.

Then a major revision of the River Law was made in 1997. The amended law includes a notion of “conserving fluvial environment” in Article 1, Purposes of the River Law. This means not that the river construction work should pay consideration to the environment, but that the conservation of environment itself is to be part of the river management.

Previously, the government officers engaging in the river governance were watchful to the activities of environmental organizations for fear that their actions might impede their riverine work. To put it bluntly, they surveilled them. But since the notion of environment conservation was added to Article 1, a change of the river governance in every corner of Japan started to appear. Some reports said that the river-governing officers and employees were working together with local environmental organizations in the field of their river.

The “fluvial environment conservation” in Article 1, Purposes of the River Law, is a broad concept, which refers to temporal and spatial scale of conserving water quality, fish and shellfish, trees and grass, birds and land animals. Furthermore, as it is impossible to preserve the environment only by the government, the cooperation from residents of the relevant river basins is crucial. With the new law, the collaboration with the residents was made possible and started.

It is often mentioned in water-related international conferences that water issues should be solved with all stakeholders involved. The phrase sounds right and beautiful to hear but it is a task very hard to achieve. In fact, I have almost never heard of cases where all stakeholders around a water issue are in good terms. Ironically, a slogan of “solve water issues with all stakeholders involved” is meaningful because they don’t get along with each other.

Owing to the revision of the River Law in 1997 with the addition of “fluvial environment conservation”, a long-lasting conflict between the river-governing authority and civil organizations had been disappearing. Then the Water Circulation Basic Act was promulgated initiated by law-makers in 2014, which embodies the involvement of all stakeholders such as governmental bodies, farmers, citizens, private companies, academics, NPOs and the like in seeking solutions for water issues in the river basins.

Some 30 year ago, the river-governing authority and environmental civil organizations were severely opposed to each other. Nowadays in the 21st century, such tempestuous relationship has gone in the field of rivers. I had never imagined that I could witness such a drastic change in my short life, but I feel grateful to see the mutual-understanding and collaborative relationship between Japan’s river-governing authorities and riverine stakeholders, which I believe is far ahead of the rest of the world.


・Announcement from the Japan Water Forum


– 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit “1 Year to Go Event” on 19 October!

The 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit (4th APWS) 1 Year to Go Event will be held in Kumamoto City, Japan from 1:30 pm on Saturday, 19th October.
Three events are scheduled over the next 12 months as a series of relay symposiums in anticipation of the 4th APWS.
The Kumamoto City Steering Committee and Japan Water Forum will co-host a kickoff event on the 19th, marking the one-year-to-go milestone.
The aim of this event is to heighten momentum and build anticipation for the success of the 4th APWS.

▼Please visit the following website for details▼,rep_en

(Reported by Manager, Natsuko Uemura)


・Bulletin Board


【H20 Saudi Arabia Conference】
Organizer: Eyes of Cities
Date: 20-21 November 2019
Place: Saudi Arabia (Riyadh)

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JWF News Vol. 180 / 16 October 2019
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