On February 27th, 2014, I was elected 12th Chairman of the Japan Commission on Large Dams at an Extraordinary Board Meeting held after the FY2014 Annual General Meeting. I look forward to working with you all.
I have been in the electricity industry ever since entering employment. My main involvement has been in hydropower generation both in Japan and abroad, particularly in the fields of hydropower planning and development. Even so, my patchy knowledge and experience of dams are quite insignificant compared to those of JCOLD members. So, to be perfectly honest, I was gripped not so much by excitement as by a feeling of trepidation when I gave my address as the new Chairman on the day of the General Meeting.
When we held the ICOLD 2012 Congress in Kyoto two years ago, my aim was to cooperate as much as possible as a representative of a local corporation, and I had the chance to work together with JCOLD officers, employees and members in helping to bring the Congress to a successful conclusion. This, together with the decision at the Brasilia Congress to hold the next Congress in Kyoto, is among the outstanding memories of my seven years as Vice-Chairman until now. However, the unprecedented calamity wrought by the Great East Japan Earthquake in the year before the Kyoto Congress also cast a long shadow over JCOLD, and still does today. Since that disastrous day in March 2011, my parental organization, the Kansai Electric Power Company, has stood paralyzed at a major turning point vis-à-vis the operation of nuclear power, a key source of electricity. The suspension of nuclear power operation has led to an increase in fossil fuel costs, thus forcing us to reduce various other costs. The same is true of other power companies; most electric utilities that belong to JCOLD have been forced to reduce their membership fees, albeit as an emergency measure. As a result, JCOLD has also fallen into harsh financial straits. Its office was moved from Toranomon in Minato Ward to Nihonbashi Ningyo-cho in Chuo Ward in early February this year, as a necessary contribution to cost cutting. Since my parental organization was partly responsible for this state of affairs, that alone made me wonder whether I was qualified to accept the post of Chairman. Furthermore, all power companies are currently undergoing screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority for the resumption of operations by their nuclear power stations, and the civil engineering divisions of each company are engaged in assessing active faults, ground motion, tsunamis and others from dawn to dusk every day. I too am involved in that, and so another factor behind my hesitation in accepting the post of JCOLD Chairman was that I wondered whether I could do justice to the post under these circumstances, and whether I could meet the mandate of the members.
Fortunately, I received warm words of support for this “temporary measure” from the former Chairman and ICOLD Zone Asia Vice-President Sakamoto, as well as the Vice-Chairmen, Senior Managing Director, Managing Director and many other parties concerned. As a result, I decided to grasp the nettle and accept the post of Chairman.
I may be speaking out of turn to say that JCOLD has been pausing for breath after dealing with the backlog of issues arising from the 2012 Kyoto Congress. But around the time of the Congress, the whole country was affected by the DPJ government’s policy of halting dam construction. The LDP returned to power soon afterwards, whereupon a committed social infrastructure policy was resumed with a view to increasing the resilience of national infrastructure. There are now clear intentions to revive dam projects, which should come as a massive relief to everyone involved in protecting national infrastructure. However, dams have been developed to a considerable degree already in Japan, in connection with flood control and irrigation works, and there is undeniably a limit to suitable sites for future dam construction. As if to reflect this situation, redeveloping existing dams by leveling or other means is now one of the leading policy measures. Also, some recent dams have been designed with preventive measures to combat sedimentation in ponding reservoirs, such as aggressive sediment removal mechanisms. The reality is, however, that effective measures against the impacts of reservoir sedimentation have not been taken for most existing dams. Notwithstanding the warning about dam sedimentation problems by Ukichiro Nakaya, famous for his research on snow*, there are fears that sedimentation will cause a decline in the capacity of existing reservoirs, given the limited room for building new ones, and that this will lead to major social problems in around the middle of this century. Solving the problem of sedimentation will not only be very difficult technically, but will also have an impact on basin problems. I feel it imperative that we comprehensively plan specific sedimentation countermeasures for existing dams now, both from the angle of technology and also from various other angles including society, environment and legal systems.
As for JCOLD in the post-Kyoto Congress era, we have more or less recovered from the strain of hosting the Kyoto Congress now, and I think the time is approaching when we will combine the wisdom of our members and conduct extensive reviews in order to solve the sedimentation problem mentioned above, as well as other areas of concern related to dams, from a long-term perspective. Through this kind of dialog, I hope we will be able to clarify the new path that we should tread from now on, as well as aiming for further energization of JCOLD.
Despite my shortcomings in learning and ability, I aim to give it my very best shot. I hope I can count on the guidance and cooperation of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and other related bodies, as well as the members of JCOLD.
*: Ukichiro Nakaya “Burying dams will mean burying Japan”(1951)