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Friday, Dec. 17, 2010


Mr. Kan to open floodgates

Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Wednesday decided not to appeal a Dec. 6 Fukuoka High Court ruling that called for opening two floodgates, north and south, of the dike in Isahaya Bay.

The mouth of the bay opens into Ariake Sea off western Kyushu. To reclaim 670 hectares of land for agricultural use, the 7-kilometer-long dike was closed in 1997. The project, started in 1989 and completed in 2007, cost ¥253.3 billion.

Local fishermen from Nagasaki, Saga, Fukuoka and Kumamoto prefectures filed a lawsuit, alleging that construction of the dike inside Isahaya Bay had resulted in a steep decline in the catch of prized bivalves and had lowered the quality of laver near the mouth of Isahaya Bay.

The high court on Dec. 6 upheld the Saga District Court's June 2008 ruling, which was in favor of the plaintiffs. It said the government must open the gates for five years after a three-year preparation period.

It has been said that once a large-scale public works project is started, it is almost impossible to stop it. Although land reclamation in Isahaya Bay has been completed, the opening of the floodgates marks a great change in the government's policy toward the Isahaya Bay project. Long before the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in September 2009, Mr. Kan was opposed to the project, calling it a wasteful public works project.

He has visited the site many times since 1997 when the dike, nicknamed the "guillotine" due to its 293 steel shutters, was closed. It is obvious that his decision this time, which overturned farm minister Michihiko Kano's opinion in favor of appealing the high court ruling, is aimed at helping to buoy the approval rating of his Cabinet, which is suffering from an approval rating of only about 20 percent. Aside from that, though, it is hoped that the decision will lead to the resuscitation of Isahaya Bay, which was once called a "sea of treasures."

People farming in the reclaimed land are vehemently opposed to the opening of the floodgates, fearing that it will cause salt damage to their farms. The government must do its best to secure fresh water for the farmland and prevent flooding.

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