Saving the “Last Natural River in Japan” and Nagara River Estuary Dam

Debate over Building a Dam over Japan's Last Virgin River


The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) planned to build a dam on the Nagara River in the 1960s as part of nation's comprehensive water resources development policy. This policy corresponded with the trend of water policies at the time, including U.S. reclamation policies, in which rivers like the Missouri and Columbia were regarded as resources to be fully used for human beneficial purposes. When the Japanese government promulgated law to promote the development of water resources in 1961 and established the Japan Water Agency, it identified five major watersheds for comprehensive development, including the Kiso River-Nagara-River watershed that runs through the Nagoya industrial area. Other prominent watersheds were the Tone River watershed in the Tokyo area and the Yodo River watershed in the Osaka area. A series of dams were planned mainly to secure water supplies to expanding urban areas and industries.

See more...
Basic Data
NameSaving the “Last Natural River in Japan” and Nagara River Estuary Dam
ProvinceMinistry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), Japan Water Agency of MLIT, Gifu prefecture, Aichi prefecture, Mie prefecture,
SiteNagoya city, Gifu city, Hashima city, Kuwana city, Hozumi town, Anpachi town, Sunomata town, Wanouchi town, Hirata town, Kaizu town, Nagashima town, Yanaizu town, Tatsuta village
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Specific Commoditiesfreshwater clams
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe dam was build at the mouth of the Nagara River. The length of the dam is 661 meters, the height 8.2 meters. The construction work was commissioned to the Taisei Corporation, Kashima Corporation, and Penta-Ocean Construction Co., Ltd. The construction began in 1968 and was completed in 1994. It is located in Nagashima town, Kuwana city, Mie prefecture.
Level of Investment (in USD)about 150,000,000,000 yen or USD1,500,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationunknown
Start Date01/07/1988
Company Names or State EnterprisesJapan Water Agency from Japan - administrator
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSave the Nagara Gawa; Nagaragawa Network; Nagaragawa Dam Opposition Group; Japan Environmental Lawyers' Association (JELF)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (failure for environmental justice)
Development of AlternativesThe opposition proposed to maintain the Nagara River intact without building any dam structure.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The governments of prefecture and municipalities along with local residents who had suffered from frequent floods strongly promoted the construction of the dam.
Sources and Materials

Water Resources Development Promotion Act
[click to view]


On July 2, 1991, the New York Times published a half-page ad for the opposition group. This galvanized a number of letters to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, asking it to stop the construction. Many Japanese books were published in the 1990s both by opposition groups and promoters.

Japan Commission on Large Dams, Dams in Japan: Past, Present and Future (CRC Press, 2009).

Satoshi Nakazawa, "The development of river management: Tone River," In Rutger de Graaf and Fransje Hooimeijer, eds., Urban Water in Japan (Taylor & Francis, 2008): 103-118.

Mantaro, Kuno. Kensho Nagaragawa Joho Senso. Doyukan, 1993.

Toshiko Niikura. "Campaigns against Dams in Japan and the Nagara River Estuary Dam." Organization & Environment (March 1999): 99-104.

Miori Aoyama. "Nagara River Estuary Dam and River Policy Network."
[click to view]


Incorporated Administrative Agency Japan Water Agency
[click to view]

Hitoshi Mutoh. "The Aichi Targets from the perspective of the Nagara River."
[click to view]

Other Documents

View of the dam Source:
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorKenichi Matsui, Associate Professor, University of Tsukuba, Japan
Last update06/10/2015