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Andy our driver contacted me by what's app the day before we were due to arrive and depart and this was great service so we were prepared. Making the booking through Hoppa was easy and the vehicle wa After a very stressful journey. The dam at Xioawan is frequently spoken of as set to be the second largest dam in China after the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze. In contrast to the sizeable body of literature that exists discussing, and frequently condemning, the Chinese dams built on the Mekong for their predicted long-term detrimental environmental effects on the countries downstream of China, there has so far been little material published that analyses what dams built on the Nu will mean for the countries downstream of China: Burma and Thailand.

At the same time, while NGOs which take an active role in relation to the proposed dams for Burma and Thailand make passing reference to possible developments in China, they have not developed arguments dealing with the possible effects of the Chinese dams in the downstream regions in the same manner as has been done in relation to the Mekong, and the effects on the countries downstream of China.

Nevertheless, and when, as seems most likely, at least four dams will be built on the Nu, it is reasonable to expect that there will be more vocal and developed criticism from advocacy NGOs, particularly in Thailand. This criticism is likely to be directed both at the possibility that Chinese dams will affect fish stocks in the river and at the human rights issues involved in population displacement.

As already noted, these protests have come from within China as well as from external bodies. The concerns expressed by the World Conservation Union were probably the most important of those coming from organisations outside China and which were considered at the twenty-ninth meeting of the World Heritage Committee meeting in Durban , in Before the monitoring mission made its visit to the Three Parallel Rivers region, China submitted a statement to the World Heritage Committee, in January , which stated that there were no plans for dams in the eight areas that make up the World Heritage site.

The statement noted, however, that plans had been developed for hydropower stations dams adjacent to the site. Of these hydropower stations, to a total of 17, three were being considered for the Nu, with the others under study for the Jinsha the upper reaches of the Yangtze and the Lancang Mekong Rivers.

While the Mission noted the repeated commitment of accompanying officials to applying stringent Chinese laws and policies towards protection of the World Heritage Site, the evidence of intrusions from mining, tourism and proposed changes to inscribed boundaries and the lagging release of hydrodevelopment plans, continues to raise concerns about the future integrity of the inscribed property.

The existing mining operations within some of the inscribed properties also suggest the possibility of listing the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The China Youth Daily reporter chose to be optimistic in concluding his article cited above with the comment that:. The World Heritage Committee appears to act in an essentially apolitical fashion in placing sites on its endangered list, and there is no certainty that it will not be ready to act in the same way in relation to the Three Parallel Rivers region.

Until the overthrow of the Thaksin government in September , Thailand was deeply involved in planning for the construction of five dams on the Salween -- three in Burma and two on the border between the two countries -- after the river flowed out of China. Discussions about these dams began in when Thailand signed a preliminary agreement to purchase electricity from dams on the Salween that would be built in Burma.

Prospective sites for dams on the Salween are shown in Map 2. Under the December agreements between Thailand and Burma, preliminary plans were drawn up for dams that would be constructed at Hutgyi, Tasang, and a further unnamed location in Shan State, in Burma, and at Weigyi and Dagwin, where the river runs between Burma and Thailand.

As of August an agreement was in place for the first dam to be built at Hutgyi by the major Chinese construction firm, Sinohydro, partly with Chinese funding, with work set to begin in December The plans for the Salween dams, as they stood before the overthrow of the Thaksin government in September , attracted vigorous criticism from advocacy NGOs, particularly those concerned with human rights, but also in relation to environmental issues.

Prominent opposition political figures, such as former chairman of the Thai Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kraisak Choonhavan, were also active in condemning the planned dams. During preliminary roadworks for access to the dam site at Tasang were carried out by a Thai real estate and construction firm, MDX. Now, in April , reports have emerged stating that work has commenced on the dam proper.

This news has coincided with the announcement of the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Burmese government and two Chinese firms for the construction of the Upper Thanlwin dam mentioned earlier in this paper, and which will have a generating capacity of 2, MW. A variety of NGO reports estimate that up to , people have been forcibly relocated in Shan State over the past decade. Human rights issues, as these relate to ethnic minority dissidents, have also been raised in the case of the planned Hutgyi dam.

The area in which the dam is to be built is home to members of the Karen minority, who have long opposed Burmese control, and there have been reliable reports of the Burmese government engaging in forced relocation of the population in the area as roads are built and villages are destroyed to make way for large-scale agriculture.

One indication of the problems in the general Hutgyi area has been the increased flow of refugees across the border into Thailand. And as a sign of the militarisation of the area an EGAT employee engaged in survey work for the Hutgyi dam was killed by a landmine in May Following the military coup that ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin, the Energy Minister in the new interim Thai government, Piyasvasti Amranand, announced in October that he did not intend to go forward with the agreements reached between Thailand and Burma for the construction of five dams on the Salween.

In making his announcement, Piyasvasti mapped out his own view of how Thailand should meet its future energy needs, placing greater emphasis that had previously been the case on purchasing energy from Laos and sourcing gas supplies from the Middle East and from Cambodia , Indonesia and Vietnam. Beyond the fact that this commitment will continue to be contested by human rights groups, and recently formed the basis of a major protest by advocacy NGOs on 28 February, the policies being followed by the interim Thai government that has replaced the Thaksin regime are clearly less accommodating to Burma than those of its predecessor.

There are few signs that this is likely. Navigating the Mekong. When River at risk was published in , clearance of obstacles to navigation in the Mekong River between southern Yunnan and northern Thailand had just been completed. This operation followed the signature, by China , Burma , Laos and Thailand , in April , of the Agreement on Commercial Navigation on the Mekong-Lancang River , which envisaged the eventual clearance of the river as far as the former Lao royal city of Luang Prabang.

Despite the Environmental Impact Statement for the clearance program delivered in -- in which China had a major input -- being sharply criticised by outside observers, clearance began the following year. Financed entirely by China, and with the work largely undertaken by Chinese work crews, 23 separate rapids, reefs and other obstacles were removed from the river bed to make possible year-round navigation of the Mekong by vessels up to Dead Weight Tons DWT as far as Chiang Saen.

For the moment, with these obstacles still in place, Chiang Kong effectively functions as a terminal for Lao river vessels, but it is not accessible to large Chinese vessels that berth at Chiang Saen. It also seems likely that no action has been taken to clear this remaining obstacle since there is a recognition that Chiang Khong will relatively soon become an important link in the road system that is being developed to run from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in China, to Bangkok.

This highway will pass through Laos and will eventually cross the Mekong over a bridge at Chiang Khong. Approval for the construction of this bridge has already been given by the Thai government. In terms of the parts played by the four parties to the navigation agreement since the clearances were completed, the roles of China and Thailand have been much more important than those of Burma and Laos.

As for Laos , as noted below its vessels appear unable to compete with Chinese cargo boats over the cleared section of the river. In terms of the expansion of navigation on the Mekong since , what has occurred is remarkable, even though there is a dearth of accurate and fully up-to-date statistics to quantify developments.

In China there are now two fully functioning river ports capable of handling cargo vessels throughout the year. These are at Jinghong, the last major settlement in southern Yunnan , and Guan Lei, an almost entirely new town only recently carved out of the surrounding jungle. Major dockworks were still being built when I visited Guan Lei, in February , to board a cargo boat for travel down the Mekong. These dockworks have now been completed.

And in Thailand substantial developments at Chiang Saen have made that river port, and current terminal for vessels coming downriver from China , both an important trade link and a settlement in the process of demographic transformation. As recently as , most Chinese vessels coming to Chiang Saen were still loading and unloading their cargo a little upstream of the town.

There, with gangs of labourers employed to shift the cargo, it was carried over planks stretched between the boats and the shore. This very basic method of shifting cargo was apparently designed to circumvent paying port charges. This was despite the existence of port facilities constructed by the Thai authorities as long ago as These facilities are now in full use, as I witnessed them in January of this year.

They consist of two covered pontoon docks equipped with conveyor belts and ramps suitable for truck traffic. At the time I observed the port in action, the pontoon docks were servicing eight vessels. Despite the presence of the conveyor belts linked to each dock, much of the cargo handling was still being carried out by labour gangs, with the bulk of the cargo being unloaded from China consisting of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Some heavier goods were being loaded on to trucks on the docks and trucks were also being used to bring Thai palm oil and sacks of soybean meal as backloading of the Chinese vessels for their return trip. A mobile crane was also in use for even heavier items than those picked up or delivered by truck.

In the light of the current activity around this existing port, there are plans to build a further facility downstream from Chiang Saen, which will be capable of servicing vessels up to DWT. Photograph 2: Chinese vessels at Chiang Saen.

As a reflection of the Chinese dominance in this river trade, when I was in Chiang Saen, there were no fewer than 24 Chinese vessels in port and strung out over a distance of some kilometres along the river. This was in contrast to the three Lao vessels I observed, and the total absence of Thai vessels.

In general, Thai vessels are smaller and less powerful than their Chinese counterparts; this fact was the cause for some controversy and resentment during the dry season, when the Mekong fell to unusually low levels.

Although this fall was certainly connected to an unusually short wet season and subsequent drought, there is no doubt that the low levels also reflected the fact that the Chinese authorities were holding back water discharges from their dams on the Mekong, at Manwan and Daochaoshan. They did this so that they could then release water in sufficient quantity for Chinese vessels to travel to and from Chiang Saen.

There are no reliable statistics for the number of Chinese vessels using the port on an annual basis, though it is certain that the figure of 3, vessels claimed for -- an increase from 1, the year before -- has most certainly been exceeded.

He draws attention to the fact that the bulk of Chinese goods shipped into northern Thailand is made up of fruit and vegetables. These are often landed at prices against which local farmers cannot compete. This is particularly the case with garlic and onions, though there have been periods when poor growing conditions in China reversed this situation.

In March a little-publicised agreement was signed by Burma , China , Laos and Thailand to permit the transport of oil from Thailand to southern Yunnan. Under this agreement, the amount of refined oil to be shipped from Chiang Saen was set at 1, tons each month. Although a relatively small amount, the agreement immediately sparked environmental concerns, not least because the oil was to be shipped in barrels rather than in specially constructed vessels, so that a collision or grounding of vessels carrying oil would pose a major risk to the Mekong and its fish stocks.

So far there has only been a report of one shipment having been made, of tons -- with tons of oil being loaded on each of two vessels. But Chinese officials have indicated that they have much bigger plans in mind and have spoken of future shipments of up to 70, tons per year. Today, even a moderately sized tanker carries that amount of oil.

Possibly more to the point is the fact that Thailand subsidises the cost of oil so that shipments made by way of the Mekong will be landed in Yunnan at a lower price than would otherwise be the case for oil brought overland from Chinese coastal ports. Of considerable interest is the impact that the Mekong River trade is having on Chiang Saen town, and more generally within Chiang Rai province, within which the town is located. Until the early s Chiang Saen, which I visited several times during that decade, was little more than an overgrown village beside the Mekong River.

Once the site of a small, fourteenth century kingdom, whose walls remain to the present day, it and the river plains surrounding the town were the site of repeated clashes between Thai and Burmese armies in the eighteenth century, to the point where the settlement had almost disappeared by the nineteenth century. Although, by the late s, Chiang Saen had grown in size and was used in a limited fashion as a terminal for trade between southern Yunnan and northern Thailand , its status was transformed by the navigation clearances completed in Chinese immigration into Thailand has, of course, a long history What is striking about developments at Chiang Saen, and in Chiang Rai province as a whole, is the rapidity with which a new Chinese element has become part of the demographic and commercial landscape.

But, more to the point, it is also the view of the range of Thai informants with whom I discussed the impact of Chinese in-migration, both legal and otherwise, into Chiang Saen and Chaing Rai province. These informants, who included a senior Thai politician, business figures in both Chiang Mai and Chiang Khong, and Thai NGO representatives, provided an anecdotal picture of unregulated Chinese immigration into Chiang Saen, with illegal immigrants marrying Thai women in order to regularise their status and become eligible to own land.

In no case were my informants able to quantify the number of Chinese immigrants who had settled in the area around Chiang Saen, but there seems no basis for doubting the basic validity of their accounts. One reason this is so is the quite clear indication that illegal and undocumented Chinese immigration into Burma , Laos and Thailand has been taking place for some time. As recorded in The paramount power , illegal Chinese immigration into Laos is a real, if undocumented, fact, with the new arrivals ranging from poor rural peasants to minor businessmen.

Chinese settlement in northern Thailand , in Chiang Rai province, is taking place at a time when there has been a major increase in Chinese commercial activity in the region, with the most active role being played by interests based in Yunnan. While the announcement of plans, such as those for an industrial estate in Chiang Saen, may not always proceed at the pace their promoters promise, the overall picture is one of Chinese corporations playing an increasingly active role in the region.

As already noted in relation to the shipments of oil up the Mekong from Chiang Saen to Yunnan , the environmental costs of the commercial activity now centred around Chiang Saen are a subject for concern among the active Thai advocacy NGOs that monitor developments linked to the Mekong River. More generally, these groups draw attention to the decline in fish catches along the course travelled by vessels between Chiang Saen and Yunnan , and particularly in relation to catches in the area immediately around the town.

They also argue that as a result of changes in flow patterns along the river between Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong river banks and sandbanks used for horticulture in dry seasons continue to be adversely affected. These variations in flow patterns are, the NGOs argue, the product both of the dams that have already been built in China and of the negative hydrological effects of the clearances that have been undertaken to facilitate navigation.

Concluding Remarks. The developments discussed in this paper point to the manner in which environmental issues, and frequently those issues combined with concerns relating to human rights, are playing an increasingly important part in the politics of the Asian region. Concern for the environment is no longer a fringe issue, and there is no more striking illustration of this fact than the domestic opposition that was mounted within China to the proposed dams on the Nu, and which sparked the important but unexpected reaction by the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, to step in and put plans for the construction of 13 dams on hold.

Although the broader issue of climate change has dominated global discussion of environmental issues, the politics of water, of its use and its availability are receiving ever-greater attention. And this is likely to be increasingly the case as the future use of rivers in China and Southeast Asia intersects with policies linked to energy and increased irrigation. The centrality of rivers and their exploitation to a broad range of political issues is strikingly illustrated in the two cases examined in this paper.

In the case of the Salween , energy resources in China , Burma and Thailand , human rights in Burma and intra-ASEAN relations are all issues that stem from the contested future of a river. That UNESCO should now be involved in what is currently an unresolved issue over the heritage status of the Three Parallel Rivers region, through which the Nu, Mekong and Yangtze all flow, is a testimony to increasingly broad reach of environmental factors.

So while the Mekong and the Salween are currently in a notably healthy state by comparison with the Yellow River , and indeed, the lower reaches of the Yangtze, their futures are not automatically assured. The fact that both are vital to the well-being of the countries through which they flow make the matters examined in this paper issues of real consequence.

So, at the same time as China seeks to develop hydropower on the Nu within its own territory, it is closely involved through Chinese-based commercial companies in the developments taking place on the Salween beyond its borders. All of these developments reinforce a judgment that China continues to build on its previous successes in dealing with the countries of Southeast Asia — particularly those of the mainland region — to project further its influence on a peaceful basis and in cooperation with those states.

A brief overview of current, and controversial, issues associated with the Mekong. The content of this paper has, in relation to the Mekong , been essentially concerned with navigation and associated developments. At a broader level, the release of two key documents during seems likely to spark further controversy in relation to the uses made of the river and the institutions that play a role in determining its future.

The first of these two documents has been released at a time when there is very active discussion about the future role of the MRC, in particular the extent to which it can play a role in which its trans-national responsibilities can supersede the interests of its four, individual national members.

As such they deserve extended analysis, which is beyond the compass of this brief note. For the moment it is sufficient to observe that should the assumptions in the two documents prove to be incorrect the cost in human terms could be high indeed. One of the reasons for this sombre conclusion is to be found in the problems that are already apparent in the case of infrastructure development on two rivers that are tributaries of the Mekong, the Se San and the Sre Pok, which rise in Vietnam but flow into the Mekong in Cambodia.

Posted at Japan Focus , June 11, Milton Osborne is an Australian historian, author, and consultant specializing in Southeast Asia. An important survey of contemporary environmental issues in China is Elizabeth C. Although quite clearly an advocacy document, there is no reason to question the basic facts provided in it. China Youth Daily , 17 July I first visited this region in and have continued to visit it on an irregular basis since that time.

William W. There are chapters about young women working and old people dying, about lacquer ware and Deer Dances and enka, and about internationalization and administrative amalgamation. But where were the farmers and what happened to agriculture, even in Tohoku? But as a proportion of prefectural and regional economy and as a contribution to individual household incomes, even in Tohoku, agriculture falls well behind manufacturing, construction, and service industries.

Therein lies a crucial feature of contemporary rural Japan : it remains agrarian in its imagery and identity but not in its political economy. Rice paddies and farm villages are at the heart of regional cultural style, but as elsewhere in Japan, the routines of farming no longer calibrate household and community social relations.

Nor do they organize local economies. Farmers are few in number and agriculture is profitable for only a small number of them. How this came to pass over the twentieth century became the subject of my chapter in that volume. Twentieth-century Japan was long distinctive as the only advanced industrial society whose primary agricultural sector was irrigated rice.

To me, there have been three outstanding features of its modern agriculture, and I take their mutual entailments as my starting point. The first is a much-remarked constant, the enduring "farm family. The farm population remained stable for the first 6 decades of the twentieth century at about 30 million people in 5. By , farm family numbers had dropped below 5 million; by , they had dipped below 4 million, in they had shrunk to just over 3 million and by they were around 2.

However, even in , And the average cultivation acreage per farm family remained at roughly 1 hectare for much of the century. The tenacity of the farm family is bemoaned by some and celebrated by others, but it cannot be disputed, although I will argue here that it can be misunderstood for what it is and is not.

A second feature of modern Japanese agriculture is a much less appreciated cyclical dynamic: the enormous strides in both equity and efficiency that have been concentrated in two indigenous Green Revolutions. That is, major Japanese farm regions have experienced two "rice revolutions" in the past hundred years, two periods of radical organizational reform and technological innovation.

The earlier of these was around the turn of the twentieth century, roughly from to ; the more recent was in the years, It is more precise, then, to speak of gradual development punctuated by two intense periods of accelerated change, but it is important to emphasize the condensed event-chains of those brief periods and the enormous transformations they wrought on the Japanese countryside.

A third feature of Japanese agriculture has been the steadily growing preponderance of part time operations. Since , the total number of farm families has declined only moderately. The real shift has been from full-time farming to part time farming. In the early s, fulltime operations were in the majority; Class I part-timers became the numerical plurality in the s and s, and Class II part-timers became the statistical norm in the s and s.

In , Thus, a hundred years of Japanese farming may be characterized as a constant of family farming, a repetitive cycle of rice revolutions, and a linear growth of part time farming. Each of these three characteristics has drawn scholarly treatment among many others, Mulgan and Waswo and Nishida are valuable resources , but what I emphasize here is how they conditioned one another.

Agrarian reform has changed much of the physical, technological, and organizational landscape of the Japan countryside--except for the preponderance of farm families and national sentiments about rice-growing. In hindsight, we can find this understandable, but it was certainly not the intended outcome.

In both rice revolutions, powerful state and local interests held small holdings to be the root problem of Japanese agriculture, and they did their best to encourage large-scale production. The consequences of these rice revolutions for local and national society and economy were profound, yet largely unanticipated by either participants or planners. Smallholders emerged, if anything, more emboldened and entrenched. And despite concerted efforts in recent decades to make agriculture a fulltime occupation, part time farming has become the agricultural norm—and agriculture has become a smaller and smaller component of the Tohoku economy.

In the first of these two periods, from about to about , landlords in several major rice regions exercised prerogatives granted them by national legislation to create irrigation cooperatives and agricultural societies that sponsored extensive technical and procedural reforms in all phases of irrigation and drainage.

This was done to facilitate new labor-intensive cultivation methods and improved rice seed varieties. There were immediate gains in crop yields, but the labor intensification and the assessment of tenants for project costs bred levels of discontent and forms of counter-organization that eventually discouraged most subsequent landlord investment in agriculture.

Instead, leverage in regional agrarian affairs shifted to smallholder owner-tenants. The sweeping land reform in the years immediately following World War II consolidated these smallholders as a countryside of owner-cultivators. The second rice revolution, roughly in the years , was spurred by the state's vigorous promotion of a second round of irrigation reorganization.

Enabling legislation was passed, engineers were dispatched to local areas, and most project costs were heavily underwritten by the government to create the irrigation networks, procedures, and organizations it felt necessary for a complete mechanization of rice agriculture. Mechanization was intended to encourage outflow of excess labor from farming to industry, farmland sales, and a consolidation of holdings into a small number of larger, more efficient farming operations.

Instead, most farm families held on to their land and used the new machinery--and the generous government rice price supports--to continue small-scale farming on a part time basis at production costs four to five times the world market price of rice. National ministries remain mired in policy confusion and beset with rising surpluses while the subsidized and over-mechanized farmers persist, if not prosper.

Rice agriculture, which contributed mightily to the country's early industrialization, has become one of the most technologically advanced yet economically inefficient farming systems in the world--a world leader in rice yields but a substantial drag on the national economy. What I offer here is an interpretation of this linkage of family operations, green revolutions, and part time farming in modern Japan through the trajectory of experience in one particular Tohoku region, Shonai Plain in Yamagata Prefecture.

This will require some details—a local narrative—but my aim is not to wallow in the minutiae of a field site, however tempting that is for an anthropologist like myself! Rather, historical ethnography is essential to show that the unstable trajectory of change and the contingency of the continuous are produced by the play of forces over a particular field of time and space.

These were broad rubrics, and in an important sense, the course of each period was largely set by those who could impose particular meanings on these slogans. After some necessary background on Shonai Plain, I will examine each of these periods to identify the political and economic structures that framed these cultural idioms of technological and organizational change.

Shonai as ecological unit and its two 20th-century rice revolutions. Japan , in effect, is a country of some small river basins, each composed of a plain and its surrounding mountains, and constituting a relatively contained and integrated ecological unit. The forests, scrublands, rivers, and fields within each small basin unit have had to be exploited and managed as a resource system.

Shonai is one of these units, centered on a small, low-lying coastal plain in the Tohoku prefecture of Yamagata that is one of Japan 's remaining rice bowls. The plain itself is about fifty kilometers in length, north to south, and about fifteen kilometers wide in its southern half, narrowing to about six kilometers wide in its northern half.

It is surrounded by hills and mountains on three sides, including the Fuji-san-shaped Mt. The plain faces the Sea of Japan to the west. The rivers that tumble out of the surrounding mountains were utilized in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for irrigation water as the flat plain was gradually developed as paddy land. The consequence has been to favor irrigation by canals that take off from the rivers near the edge of the plain and run by gravity out on to the plain, branching at many levels.

The complex dendritic networks often connected tens of settlements and thousands of rice cultivators, upstream and downstream, some with supply and scarcity problems, others with drainage and surplus problems, and all implicated in multi-level of segmentary opposition and complementary alliance. The struggles around land and labor have been the staples of agrarian political and economic histories, but given the ecology of rural Japan, more often than not, water use and water control have been even more consequential: technically complex, economically central, and politically contentious.

Shonai at the end of the 19 th century had been an extensive rice plain for two centuries, whose production was the mainstay of the Sakai Domain that held the region continuously through the Tokugawa period Kelly Yields remained uneven, technology was adequate enough to moderate but not ameliorate water scarcities and poor drainage, and the complex organization of cultivators, landowners, and domain officials functioned in a way that both provoked but contained serious conflicts of interests.

It was the changes in the Shonai political economy in the aftermath of Meiji national forces that precipitated the first of Shonai's two twentieth-century rice revolutions. Figure 2 charts its path in a highly schematic way in order to emphasize some intriguing parallels and contrasts with the second period of concentrated change in the decades following another national tectonic shft after World War II.

At the center of both revolutions was a radical change in water use and management--both a reconstitution of physical networks and a procedural and organizational reform. Yet these were embedded in more thoroughgoing agrarian change that redrew the paddy landscape and brought new cultivation techniques and technology. And in both periods, this rice revolution was preceded and made possible by national land reform and, behind that, state reorganization.

Contrasts between the two periods are equally significant. The first was largely a revolution from below: the initiative, planning, and execution was local, with only modest financial subsidies solicited from the state. The second was a revolution from above, proceeding from vigorous government policy initiatives, technical inputs, and financing.

It is true, of course, that both periods demonstrate how people at the local level can select and adapt programs and resources of the larger society. For example, in the s and s the postwar land improvement districts successfully exploited jurisdictional squabbles between the Ministries of Agriculture and Construction to maximize local modifications of the nationally standardized master plans of each ministry.

It is equally true that in both periods, state bureaucrats and political leaders were able to shape and mobilize local efforts in the service of broader policy objectives. In the s and s, for example, prefectural officials and extension service technicians played on intergenerational tensions within farming households to gain acceptance of a complete line of crop machinery. Nonetheless, local initiative versus central direction is an appropriate first-order contrast between the two periods, which are briefly sketched in the following sections.

Ploughs, rectangles, and cement: One of the first acts of the new Meiji government that replaced the Tokugawa shogunate in was a national land survey and land tax revision. For Shonai as for many regions, this was the first comprehensive cadastre in years, and it had several results of mixed consequence see Kelly It doubled the registered paddy land acreage on the plain, yet political unrest forced new tax formulas that actually reduced total tax burdens below previous levels in villages.

On the other hand, final ownership assignments of paddy parcels in the late s and, even more seriously, the induced recession of the early s drove many smallholders to mortgage tenancy while allowing some largeholders to increase their holdings further. However, the Land Tax Revision had also largely equalized tax rates across the plain. The remeasuring and regrading of parcels narrowed the tax advantages of lands opened after the seventeenth-century cadastre, which were the bulk of most large holdings.

With little or no tax obligations to the domain, these largeholders had tolerated the waterlogged soils and unstable yields of such paddy fields. Now, with fixed and for those parcels higher tax duties, they were less able and willing to ignore their liabilities.

It was an impetus for organization. The Irrigation Cooperative Ordinance offered a legislative basis for associations of tax-paying, paddy landowners within a common irrigation area. By , such cooperatives formed in Shonai at three levels—at the level of its river systems, at the level of the main canals that took off from these rivers, and often at the level of the branch canals of most of the main canals.

The cooperatives at each level were managed internally by small standing committees, selected by and from larger councils of member representatives. Analysis of committee rosters reveals a preponderance of landlords and cultivating largeholders. However, the charters of most of the cooperatives limited their jurisdiction to intake maintenance and allocation "by customary proportions.

That is, their longstanding problem had been the waterlogged soil over much of the flat central plain. They quickly realized that a plowing in the autumn after harvest could aerate the soil and improve field drying. Because this stiffened the paddy soil, it was less amenable to hoeing in the spring, and thus horse plowing was again required. Tilling of paddy fields by horse Shonai, early 20th century. They were vigorously promoted by local agricultural societies, companion organizations to the irrigation cooperatives.

Landlords visited sites in Kyushu , and hired those proficient in the techniques to return to Shonai with them to establish demonstration plots and offer training sessions in various villages. Adoption of the Meiji Methods brought some stabilization of yields and improvements in the market reputation of Shonai rice by the turn of the century, but there were complications as well.

The deeper plow depth required increased quantities of fertilizer, but the rice varieties more responsive to the increased fertilizer proved less resistant to certain common diseases. Greater quantities of water were now needed for the spring work, straining the capacities of the irrigation-drainage networks.

And plow handling proved cumbersome and inefficient in the variably and irregularly shaped paddy parcels. These were financed largely by assessments to the registered owners with only minimal state subsidies , coordinated by the local agricultural societies and irrigation cooperatives, and carried out by the off-season labor of villagers.

In village after village across the basin, with backbreaking labor by hoe and shovel and straw basket, existing bunds were leveled and water channels filled in. Field areas were then recarved into blocks of uniform, rectangular 0. Bunds were reformed and water channels were re-dug so that each parcel was directly accessible by path and was fronted by a water delivery channel and backed by a drainage ditch.

These projects had significant consequences for landholdings, water use, and work relations. The Land Tax Revision survey had uncovered most but not all of the under-registration that provided a margin for the parcel holder against tax demands and for the tenant against high rents. Erasing existing field boundaries now eliminated any remaining excess. The rectangularization also reduced the total number of parcels, and thus the acreage required for the perimeter bunds.

Land leveling and improvements in terminal ditching allowed marginal lands to be brought into rice cultivation, and the basin was even more extensively rice-monocropped as a result. The projects also provided landlords with an opportunity to revise tenancy agreements, by shifting the measure of rents and land values from rice volumes to acreage.

With a landscape of 0. The "muscle women" carriers chikara mochi onna who worked in Shonai's largest rice granary in Sakata 's. A single bale weighed about 60 kilograms! The increases in total acreage and in water use per parcel greatly inflated water demands -- by a factor of about 1.

Thus, while main and branch canal layouts were not directly affected by the paddy projects, it was now necessary to improve and reorganize them. This became the third phase of this rice revolution. Turnouts from main to branch canals were rebuilt in stone or cement to reduce leakage and damage and enable more precise allocation.

With mixed success, several of the cooperatives used this as an opportunity to adjust existing allocation formulas along the main canals. Main river cooperatives undertook major construction to straighten and train the river courses by high embankments, but this also increased the speed of the rivers across the plain and further exacerbated the longstanding drainage problems of the downstream areas. The new river embankments also necessitated rebuilding the intake gates to the main canals, and although the original dimensions were replicated, the use of cement for the first time proved to increase the efficiency of gate intake.

Protests by downstream canal cooperatives against the upstream networks led to a procedure for negotiations during the dry summer months that prevented violence but did not defuse simmering dissatisfaction. Not only were procedures of water management standardized, but rights to water use were also affected. Allocation rights, on the other hand, attached to intakes by either of two standards of division -- by "customary" intake dimensions or in proportion to registered yield of its service area parcels.

Neither standard promoted an 'equal' allocation of water among the tens of thousands of parcels with yosui rights. The reconfiguration of land and ditching did little to alter the notion of yosui , although it did increase the service area acreage of the basin networks. But it did diminish the distinction between the right to receive water and the right to receive a certain volume of water by making allocation per unit of land area more plausible and allocation by "customary" intake dimensions more problematical.

By , irrigation cooperative dues and project fees were assessed on a per acreage basis, and that fueled demands for per acreage water allocation. In sum, this three-stage, landowner-led rice revolution was generally successful in Shonai in stabilizing yields and rents, improving rice quality, and ameliorating poor soil conditions. It established a network of local irrigation and agricultural improvement organizations, and systematized the procedures of property rights, land use, and water management.

The benefits of the reforms accrued initially to those who sponsored them -- the landlords and largeholders. The demands of the new methods and the standardization of parcels into uniform rectangles greatly heightened competition among cultivators. Visible and invidious comparisons could now be easily drawn between work in adjacent parcels, allowing landlords to draw quick conclusions about the diligent and the careless.

However, their preeminence was short lived. Evidence from several villages suggests that these competitive pressures, together with other aspects of the reforms, in fact consolidated and advanced the position of the smallholders, both owner-tenants and tenants; Francks , Smethurst , and Nishida detail how sequences of agrarian reform in other major regions eventually worked to strengthen smallholder positions.

The assignment of project labor to village units created feelings that they were literally making their land, as expressed in diaries of the time. Villages now demanded a role in overseeing land exchanges, protecting ceilings on rent levels, and mediating tenancy disputes. By the s, many villages had framed these demands as written compacts between all resident smallholders. Often the most assertive group within the settlement was not the community assembly of senior male household heads, but a new association of young adult males--the successors, who were the head plowmen and field managers of their households.

They took easily to the idiom of "improvement," and in the plowing contests and harvest competitions forged ties of cooperation and plans for joint action as residents, cultivators, and tenants. Their plowman associations pressured the irrigation cooperatives for procedural and facility reforms that gave smallholders a de facto voice in water matters. By the s, reinvigorated village units had checked landlord powers and secured permanent tenancy rights in the now more profitable rice farming system.

The familiar thrust of agrarian capitalism by improving landlords had been parried in the midst of a rice revolution that produced more equity and efficiency than initially seemed likely. Dams, permits, and tractors: A second rice revolution, If the direction of change in the early twentieth century was from cultivation methods to field layout to water networks, the more recent period of change has moved in the opposite direction. It began with a reorganization of basin irrigation, which facilitated another paddy field readjustment, which enabled a full-scale mechanization of rice work.

Yet these, too, have served to strengthen smallholder rice monoculture, against the intentions of the sponsoring state. Their 'revolutionary' outcome has proved to be rural prosperity and farm crisis. Three state initiatives laid the basis for postwar agrarian reorganization. The first was the land reform legislation in , which virtually eliminated tenancy and set limits on landholding and conditions for renting arrangements. The second was the Land Improvement Law of , which established cultivation, not ownership, as the criterion for participation in land improvement schemes and membership in irrigation associations, now reorganized into "land improvement districts" tochi kairyo-ku.

The third state initiative of the first postwar decade was multipurpose dam construction. Faced with food shortages, factory recovery, and urban growth, the national government embarked on a massive program of dam building in the headwaters of the country's major rivers. The Tennessee Valley Authority was a widely discussed model by the Ministry of Construction engineers, who went about the country with their blueprints and contracts.

Several dams were completed in headwaters around the plain in the late s to store water for irrigation, to provide flood control, and to generate hydroelectric power. They remain property of the state, in the custody of the Ministry of Construction.

The rice-farming irrigators soon realized that there were incompatible aspects of these three purposes that seriously jeopardized agricultural water use. Disputes surrounding multi-purpose dams were quite common in the s, and directors and staff of the land improvement districts, through field trips to such sites, were sensitive quite early to potential problems. For example, the variable discharge for electrical generation to match hours of peak demand disrupted the constant flow necessary for smooth operation of intakes, and the seasonal needs of irrigators did not match the more constant monthly use volume of the electric company.

Moreover, July-August in Shonai is both the time of most likely drought and agricultural water needs and the time of most serious flooding due to sudden, concentrated rainfall. The former requires holding a maximum reservoir volume during the summer, while the latter recommends a minimum reservoir volume in order to hold the runoff if and when sudden storms occur. Yet another fear was that drawing from the cold bottom of the reservoirs and transport through pipes to the generating stations would lower the river water temperatures to levels injurious to the rice plant cold water temperatures were a longstanding problem for rice farmers throughout northern Japan.

Some of these problems were negotiated through a joint council of the concerned parties, but yet another consequence of the dams proved less amenable to adjudication. The dams, by preventing the downflow of sediment, seriously disrupted the balance of deposition and scouring along the river channel and caused a progressive lowering of the river bottom.

This made it increasingly difficult for the intakes to draw water. The land improvement districts, faced each year with heavier outlays for higher diversion weirs to raise water for the intakes, prepared a suit against the electric company. In the late s, they won a million yen indemnity payment in an out-of-court settlement.

This of course did not solve their intake problems, and it was in casting about for a solution that they precipitated massive changes in their water works and their entire agrarian system. Again, this second rice revolution may be schematized as a succession of four stages, concentrated in the years between and The headworks constructed on the Aka River , s.

The headworks project both allowed and required a comprehensive realignment of the basin canals, which were consolidated into a single network of straight channels, lined with concrete, with locked division gates operated under a central allocation plan by the fulltime technical staff of the land improvement districts. An old unlined branch canal. The same canal after construction, late s. Basin water works were restructured of course not merely in response to a local river channel problem. The "rationalization of water use" was a key phrase in government policy debates of the s and s, and the projects in the Aka River basin were one instance of a massive investment strategy by the state to make agricultural water use more efficient and make those savings available to industry and hydroelectric generation.

Under the new River Law of , the headworks and canal projects provided the opportunity for the Ministry of Construction to convert the customary water rights of the various land improvement districts--perpetual and ambiguous in claim--to a single, fixed term water use permit, by which maximum volume, use period, manner of intake, and other details are carefully specified.

The holder of this use permit is actually the Minister of Agriculture because as public property the headworks is delegated to his ministry's jurisdiction. In actual practice, operating rights to the headworks and canals, together with the use permit, are assigned to the Aka River Land Improvement District Association. When the engineers reached the fields themselves, they bulldozed them over, resculpturing the paddy landscape into even larger rectangles of 0.

They gridded them with entirely separate irrigation and drainage ditching, such that water was only used in a single field and not later reused. This was necessary to enable fine tuning of water levels and fertilizer applications. That is, some ingredients of the chemical fertilizers dissolved in the water, and could complicate the calculations of downstream farmers should they attempt to reuse that water.

This had not been a serious problem with smaller quantities of fertilizers and earlier rice varieties, but new hybrid varieties introduced by the extension service require as many as twelve, very precisely timed and measured fertilizer applications. In contrast to the rectangularization projects earlier in the century, these were contracted to professional construction companies with heavy, earth-moving equipment.

Like the earlier projects, however, village units were charged with arranging an exchange of parcels among their residents to consolidate a household's holdings into two-to-four blocks. The combination of water and land reorganization allowed, and was intended to promote, a complete mechanization of rice work. With credit funneled through the regional agricultural cooperative, which thus could position itself as the principal sales and service agent, the state subsidized the purchase of a complete line of rice machinery--gas heaters for the seedling houses, tractors, transplanters, pesticide sprayers, combines, trucks, hullers, and gas dryers.

These further standardized the work cycle and cultivation. Older method of drying the harvested rice, s. Harvesting by combine, late s [Note that the son is driving the combine while his father is assisting on the side]. Yet there was virtually no active opposition. This was due to the attractions of the fourth component of this agrarian infrastructure reform. While areas of the basin were under construction and thus property rights suspended , project engineers could push through another kind of kiban seibi, a wholesale renovation of the regional infrastructure Kelly b.

All major public roads were widened, straightened, and resurfaced; water supply piping and telephone cables were laid; electricity lines were upgraded; and other improvements were made to regional transportation and utility grids. Ten years later, the buzz word was "airport," as the region awaited completion of a regional facility that since the early s has offered direct but seldom full flights to Tokyo and Osaka. An aerial photo of central Shonai, with newly aligned fields and canals [Note that at lower center is the factory of the largest cement company in Shonai, which had most of the major project contracts].

The outcomes of this century of change have thus been most surprising. From the perspective of irrigation, the density of organization, accountability to users, and technical expertise of land improvement district staff are admirable examples of responsive and effective water management. And against the ambitions of the principal actors the landlords at the turn of the century and the government planners more recently , both periods strengthened the political and economic position of the smallholders, guaranteeing a broad distribution of the benefits of agrarian reform.

With an eye toward problems and prospects in other rice regions of Asia , one is tempted to applaud both results. Yet these same developments have produced for Shonai and the other surviving agricultural regions of Japan a "farm crisis" of overcapitalized, under-scaled farming units that equally perplexes local people and national bureaucrats. To appreciate these mixed outcomes, we must remember how political-economic forces intersected with cultural idioms during the two periods.

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