Social Problems Engendered By the Removal of Dams

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Atsushi HAMAMOTO, Nagoya City University, Japan
Japan is one of the “dam nations” in the world as thousands of concrete dams have been built in Japan since the 1950s. Given the age of these dams, debates about whether they should be repaired or removed have gathered momentum. As the rural population of Japan has been decreasing, local governments may be persuaded to remove the concrete dams in order to reduce the costs of maintenance. Dam removals are typically done to restore the flow of rivers, revitalize waterfront areas, and change the quality of human interaction with rivers. Although many of removed dams are small-scale dams, some are large-scale such as several dams on the Elwha River in Washington.

The Arase Dam, the only dam to be removed in Japan, was constructed in 1955 in the Kumamoto Prefecture; the removal process was initiated in 2012 and completed in 2016. Different opinions exist about the removal of this dam. Some claim that the removal project was necessary and successful, while others argue that it was unnecessary because electricity was generated from the dam in an environment-friendly manner. Arguments for and against the removal of dams tend to be complex and nuanced, which, in turn, complicates the decision-making processes. In case of Asare Dam, an important noteworthy social factor is that the people currently living in this region do not have knowledge about the nature of the landscape prior to the dam’s construction.

Once a dam is removed, sand sediment collected in the dam lake begins to flow, which addresses the influence of the removal on river environment and the eco-system. Such natural factors must be monitored, but social aspects like community development after the removal also must be considered. In this paper, I seek to explore the social issues resulting from dam removals.