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Editorial: Residents' consensus needed for Japan flood control that doesn't rely on dams

With the passage of a law promoting river basin management, much attention is being paid to the possible success of new flood control methods that are not dependent on dams and levees.

    Now, developers will need to obtain permission from prefectural governors when building residences and facilities for older adults in areas at high risk of water inundation. Additionally, a broader range of land with various flood damage risks will be subject to government assistance provided to communities collectively relocated to upland areas.

    The law also seeks cooperation from corporations; to decrease the amount of rainwater flowing into rivers, the government will use subsidies to urge companies to install water storage facilities in buildings' underground floors.

    This comes against a backdrop of increased damage from severe rainfall caused by the effects of global warming. One estimate says the nationwide frequency of flooding will double in the next 100 years.

    Flood control achieved by building massive structures like dams has a limit. The government made a reasonable decision in trying to decrease water damage by changing course to general measures, including "soft" ones, as opposed to "hard" measures like dams.

    But it is residents' understanding that will determine the new plan's success or failure. The government must carefully and thoroughly explain why the new countermeasures are necessary, and strive to build consensus to elicit their cooperation.

    In particular, measures involving individuals' assets, such as construction regulations, must be advanced while taking into consideration individual circumstances.

    In recent years, there have been cases around the country in which riverside facilities for older adults have suffered great flooding damage leading to casualties. In some instances, facility operators' finances have not been so robust, thereby reducing their options for land to build on.

    Instead of simply limiting where business operators can place facilities, government agencies will need to assist operators in finding safe locations to build on.

    The system for communities' collective relocation is an effective measure for preventing disasters before they happen. But because it poses a high financial hurdle for residents, and because many are emotionally attached to where they live, collective relocation has not progressed as hoped.

    It is imperative that both administrative bodies and residents take time to discuss and share a vision on how to create communities that can endure disasters.

    The national and local governments should listen to the voices of residents, and make new water damage countermeasures truly effective.

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