Dam Nation

With a government addicted to dubious public works projects, Japan has earned its reputation as the Construction State. Need an example? With 113 major rivers, the country has no fewer than 2,734 dams. That's why last week's surprise announcement of the first-ever dismantling of a Japanese dam is being hailed as a watershed. Kumamoto prefecture governor Yoshiko Shiotani declared that the Arase dam, which spans the Kumagawa River on Japan's southern island of Kyushu, would be torn down beginning in 2010. It's about time. Nearly 50 years old, the dam generates less than 1% of the region's electricity and would be...

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