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JWF News ❘ October 2021: A Struggle between Ecology and River Engineering (latter half)

【JWF News Vol. 204】20 October 2021

◇ Contents ◇
・Foreword A Struggle between Ecology and River Engineering (latter half) – The Establishment of Ecology and Civil Engineering Society
・Report from the Japan Water Forum
 - The Outcomes of the 4th JWF Webinar
 - The Trend in Water Cycle Policy: International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development” 2018-2018

・Foreword A Struggle between Ecology and River Engineering (latter half) – The Establishment of Ecology and Civil Engineering Society
By Mr. Tohru Kondo, Advisory Council Member of the Japan Water Forum;
Former President of the Ecology and Civil Engineering Society, Japan / Former President of the Japan Society of Civil Engineers

A Determination not to Make Disaster Prevention a Political Issue
 A Diet member from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) wrote a piece for a major newspaper calling for the suspension of construction of the Nagaragawa Estuary Barrage. He was part of an opposition movement along with some members of the Communist Party, which was attracting a lot of attention from the media. Some members in the Construction Committee of the LDP proposed a party resolution for promotion of the barrage, in response to their colleague’s collaboration with the Communist Party. I immediately told them that the purpose of the project was to protect the lives and assets of the public and had nothing to do with politics. I asked them to defer their decision because the Social Democratic Party (SDP) would have to adopt an opposing resolution against the project if the LDP did so. After that, an increasing number of SDP members became aware of the importance of the estuary barrage. The resolution on suspension of construction, adopted by the headquarters of the SDP, was rejected overwhelmingly by the party’s Executive Council in 1992.

 Though the campaign against the barrage was conducted under the banner of environmental conservation, it was not based on evidence gained through a comprehensive study of the natural conditions by politicians, the public, or the media. It seemed to come from the mood of the period. Residents living along the Nagara River had suffered from flooding due to the river banks being lower than the Okakoi-tsutsumi (a long levee along the Kiso River, built by the Owari Domain in the early Edo period), and therefore the construction of a barrage had been a longtime dream for them. I think the uproar was the result of a failure of public relations activities at the working level.

Establishment of the Ecology and Civil Engineering Society
In 1997, ecologists specializing in the natural environment, and civil engineers specializing in river improvement and dam construction got together and announced the establishment of the Ecology and Civil Engineering Society (ECESJ) to develop multidisciplinary approaches for an ecologically sustainable future. Hiroya Kawanabe, professor emeritus at the University of Kyoto and former president of the Ecological Society of Japan, was elected the president of the new group. At a preparatory meeting, Prof. Kawanabe asked, “What will you do if, after detailed consideration, we reach the conclusion that this project should be stopped?”  I immediately answered, “I will stop it.”

In 2001, the society’s official journal, Ecology and Civil Engineering, was designated a scholarly publication. The following year, the name of the group was changed to the Ecology and Civil Engineering Society (ECES). The society presented its official views on the new National Biodiversity Strategy to the Ministry of the Environment. It expanded its activities and was registered as an academic research group, so that it could take part in the selection of members of the Science Council of Japan. This September, the society celebrates its 25th anniversary, and will hold its 25th general meeting and study sessions. I hope you will keep abreast of its activities.

Engineered Approaches to Ecology
 When I talk with biologists and conservationists, I often hear the word “ecosystem”. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Ecology, it is defined as, “a stable system where living things and non-living materials come together and a basic concept including the food chain, energy flow and circulation of nutrient salts”. The Water Resources Development Public Corporation, to which I belonged, was an agency governing dam construction, which tended to be criticized as a main cause of environmental destruction. When conducting an environmental impact assessment for constructing a dam, we would focus on the food chain. Under the guidance of researchers specializing in raptors, we observed avian predator couples living in the planned dam area. We focused on their nesting places and vegetation in their foraging range, especially in winter when there were few prey animals. We analyzed all their behavior in detail until the fledglings left the nest. Based on the results of our study, we formulated the criteria for eco-friendly dam construction, which would not inhibit the healthy growth of avian predator fledglings.

 At the second meeting of the Ecology and Civil Engineering Society, I said to the audience:
I know that the goal of ecologists is the pursuit of truth about the ecosystem, but what our civil engineers can do is pursue the best possible solution for both humanity and the ecosystem. I would like to adopt the food chain as the main indicator of the ecosystem. If we set up the top species in the ecosystem (eg. avian predators) as an indicator species and help them secure prey animals and produce offspring, we can preserve the species. Based on this, we will conclude that we can maintain the ecosystem in the species’ habitat.

 Several audience members questioned me, but no one made a flat-out objection to my proposal. After that, they continued to follow our civil engineers’ trial efforts. Today, in dam construction, environmental impact assessment is carried out by setting avian predators as an indicator species. It seems to me that the protests blaming dams for environmental destruction have subsided.

(Source: Website of Japan Water Agency

・Report from the Japan Water Forum

– The Outcomes of the 4th JWF Webinar

The 4th JWF webinar was held on Wednesday, September 22nd, and 126 participants from 13 countries including the Philippines, Nigeria, South Africa, Malawi, and Pakistan enjoyed it. Mr. Nakai, Manager of Southern Water Distribution Management Yokohama Waterworks Bureau (YWWB) gave a presentation on the theme of Continuous efforts for stable water supply in Yokohama. In his presentation, he explained that what makes Yokohama’s stable water supply possible is the reliable daily management and operation, and not the most advanced technology.

◆Date: September 22, 2021 16:00~17:00(JST)
◆Speaker: Mr. NAKAI Kazunori, Manager of Southern Water Distribution Management, Yokohama Waterworks Bureau
◆Topic: Continuous efforts for stable water supply in Yokohama
◆The number of the participants: 126

▼Please visit the following website for details▼

(Reported by Reiko Yoshii, Manager)


– The Trend in Water Cycle Policy: International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development” 2018-2018

A UN initiative, the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development”, is advancing worldwide. In 2023, a UN conference focusing exclusively on water issues is to be held for the first time since 1977, and the midterm review of this decade will be conducted .

The 4th Asia-Pacific Water Summit (APWS), which will take place in April in 2022, is regarded as a major event on the road map to the 2023 UN water conference. It also marks an important milestone in achieving one of the goals stated in Japan’s National Basic Plan on Water Cycle: item 8, securing international collaboration and promoting international cooperation.

The Japan Water Forum will be actively involved in developing such policy recommendations together with its members and stakeholders for the purpose of solving global water issues.

▼Special website of the International Decade for Action 2018–2028▼

(Reported by Sayoko Kuwahara, Manager)

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JWF News Vol. 204 / 20 October 2021
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