Tripod Scheme in Flood Disaster Management in Japan
Himeji Office of River and Road, Kinki Regional Development Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), 1-250 Hojo, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0947, Japan
Japan has suffered from natural disasters but sustained economic activity on not so commodious islands. This social resiliency is based on a time-honored risk management scheme that, like a tripod, consists of self-help, mutual help, and public help. This study analyzes the social infrastructure from Japan’s disaster-fighting history. Japan’s first political documents tell how the ancient Japanese people broke ground on floodplains to develop rice-paddy agriculture and underwent repeated water-related disasters after the Nara era (710-794). People had to deal with flooding and commence risk management to survive in flood-prone areas. During the Edo era (1603-1868), people expanded paddy agriculture to all arable land in the islands and tried to protect rice production from endless flood disasters in the same places. An effective flood-fighting scheme was then invented and expanded to nationwide. Its essence was coalition among people, a primary community and a local government. In Japan’s modernization since 1868, traditional social rules have been enshrined into laws. The indigenous scheme for anti-flood measures has been translated into 3 major acts: the Disaster Management Basic Act, the Flood Fighting Act, and the River Act. These acts have been working and evolving, during qualitative transforming of Japanese society due to industrial restructuring, rapid urbanization, population fluidity, etc. Under such a legal infrastructure, the MLIT Himeji Office conducted a pilot program in an inundated community just after a downpour disaster in 2009 to improve local anti-flood measures. Output has indicated the importance of independency and interdependency of self-/mutual/public help. The “tripod” scheme provides recommendations for living with disaster not only in Japan but also in other countries in Asia.
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