|Public works should be centered around
building environmental assets
Recently the relationship between public work projects and our environment has
often been questioned. I believe, however, that both should not be considered to
be in conflict.
A famous economist, Mr. Kobun Uzawa, raised the issue of "how
the social capital should be used as commons" and is searching how public work
projects can contribute to the formulation of environmental assets. What he
wants to say is that social capital, just like the commons of the old days,
should be common space accessible by any persons for
Incidentally, I should point out that "Common" in the United
Kingdom has had multi-purposes: it could be used as a meadow (or Wiesen in
German), a place for people to stroll, and as a habitat for wild animals at the
same time .
As such, it can play many functions and be accessible to
When we expand this concept, and if add some multiple functions of
facilitating environmental aspects to it, the social capital of today (even if
it is in a form of traditional roads, harbors and so on) can coexist with the
environment without giving rise to any problems between the two.
Various economic repercussions
compounding various functions of conventional social capital in this way, we can
expect favorable economic repercussion effect on a number of new areas, and
resulting in demand-stimulating effect in many economic areas.
The wider the
favorable economic repercussion, the more cost-effective the project will
become, and the more the project could decrease social costs.
respecting landscape, public works respecting the ecosystem, public works
intending to formulate corridors, and public works for the recovery of the
environment will boost the effective demand for various "soft sciences", and,
together with measures of deregulation for that purpose, will stimulate creation
of new industries as a result.
Governmental agencies sponsoring such
projects can also get rid of the yoke of rigid public responses to the project,
and find a new target of a "qualitative improvement in public works" which could
sufficiently compensate decreases in a project budget (a pie).
concept of "mitigating factors" has been frequently discussed relating to
This concept intends to deal with the situations, where public
works conflict with the environment, in the following three methods; (1)
Avoidance, (2) Minimization and (3) Compensation.
The preferred method for
dealing with this is already suggested in the order of the above presentation.
If avoidance (the most preferable method) is difficult, we should adopt the
second method. The third method is the last method, and we should not use
compensation as a sufficient excuse for developing an area against from the
The first method, Avoidance, means that, for instance, when a road
seems to pass through a habitat of some rare wild plants/animals, we should try
to change its planned route.
The second method, Minimize, is to scale down
the size of the project in order to minimize the impact on the
The third method means that when the necessary project of public
works cannot help but destroy an ecological system, we should prepare some
artificial environment which can replace the original system.
there have been movements, for example, to build artificial tidal flats as a
precondition for development.
This should be the last resort after all other
means have tried and failed. With the introduction of the said concept of
"mitigating factors" being applied to public works, our general idea about the
public work project may undergo a significant change.
Shift to a new paradigm
After the war,
Japan tried very hard to build up social capital in order to catch up with the
level of Western countries in this aspect.
We may say that we reached the
level of those countries in terms of quantity, but we are still behind them in
many aspects if we consider the quality of such capital.
In that sense there
remain many things to be done for improvement of social capital, a task which is
prompting us to increase public investment much more to materialize the
"Japanese society with a high quality social environment." The formation of
environmental assets is a rather new experience for us to invest in social
It is essential to develop both material and human resources for
We have to stop wasting our time in futile arguments over the
"development or environment" issue centering around public projects, and should
strive for constructing a new paradigm of public works actively aiming for the
recovery, creation and maintenance of our valuable environment and ecological