High Growth Hydrosphere: The Sakuma Dam and “Comprehensive Development” Planning in Post-1945 Japan

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Event Date: 
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 16:00
Hale 450, CU-Boulder

[CAS Speaker Series] This talk will be presented by Eric Dinmore, Associate Professor of History at Hampden-Sydney College. In the years immediately following World War II, Japanese academic economists and public policy commentators viewed “backwardness” as a primary factor behind their country’s ruinous wartime pursuit of empire. In order to overcome “backwardness,” they argued Japanese would need to refashion their entire relationship with the natural environment, so as to maximize the amount of resources available to feed a growing economy. Many advocated “comprehensive development” (sōgō kaihatsu) as a unified management of the domestic landscape that employed long-term planning, empirical data analysis, and technocratic guidance in the name of the public good.  A key, if not the key, component in early postwar comprehensive development was the promotion of large, phenomenally expensive multi-purpose dams. Backers of multi-purpose dam projects in early postwar Japan justified their necessity for a number of reasons, including flood control, provision of water for irrigation and industry, improvement of river transport, promotion of rural development, and hydroelectricity. This last reason factored most importantly at a time when Japan suffered from chronic electricity shortages.

In this talk, Dinmore examines early postwar comprehensive development and dam promotion on the levels of policy discourse and actual practice.  He traces the genealogy of the 1950 Law on Comprehensive National Land Development (Kokudo sōgō kaihatsu hō), the basic law that underpinned attempts to reconfigure Japanese landscapes during the 1950s and early 1960s. He then presents the case study of the Sakuma Dam, which at its completion in 1956 stood as Japan’s largest dam and as a concrete product of comprehensive development policy. The Sakuma Dam, he argues, illustrated the limitations of the comprehensive development approach by skewing the benefits of hydraulic exploitation toward urban industrial centers, by failing to encourage rural revitalization, and by upsetting the natural environment of the Tenryū River Valley in central Japan. 

The closest metered parking is along University Avenue. Another option is the Euclid Auto Park by the University Memorial Center, which is a little more expensive but does not have a two-hour time limit.

High Growth Hydrosphere

Map of Hale