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Japan: Flood Prevention and Sewerage Service Acts Amended

(June 11, 2015) Flood damage cost 410 billion yen (about US$ 3.3 billion) in Japan in 2013. (Press Release, On the 2013 Total Cost of Flood Damage (Mar. 27, 2015), Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) (in Japanese).)

Under the current Flood Prevention Act (Act No. 193 of 1949, amended by Act No. 109 of 2014), the Minister of MLIT and prefecture governors designate areas along certain rivers as predictable areas prone to flooding. (Id. art. 14; text of the Act (last updated Nov. 19, 2014), e-Gov website (in Japanese).) Municipal governments that have such areas within their jurisdictions must prepare systems for the following, among other things:

1. issuing flood warnings;
2. designating evacuation spaces; and
3. listing facilities that need particular attention in case of floods, such as underground malls; care facilities for the elderly, the disabled, or children; and large factories. (Id. art. 15.)

When extremely heavy rain falls, some rainwater drainage systems can overflow. The current Act did not address such cases. For this reason, an amendment was made to the Flood Prevention Act to enable prefectural and municipal governments to designate predictable areas of rainwater flooding near rainwater pump facilities in cities. (Flood Prevention Act, Act No. 193 of 1949, amended by Act No. 22 of 2015, art. 14-2; text of amendment bill, Japan House of Representatives website (in Japanese) (last visited June 4, 2015).) The amendment also added implementation of flood evacuation drills to the list of actions that the municipal governments must prepare. (Id. art. 15, ¶ 1.)

Rainwater drainage is covered by the Sewerage Service Act. (Act No. 79 of 1958.) A recent amendment to the Sewerage Service Act enables municipal governments to maintain private reservoirs based on agreements made between the municipal government and the reservoir owner. (Act No. 79 of 1958, amended by Act No. 22 of 2015, art. 25-3.) For example, a municipal government can drain water from such a reservoir before a storm. (Underground Malls and Urban Areas Can Be “Predictable Areas,” Flood Prevention Act, etc. to Be Amended, ASAHI NEWSPAPER (Feb. 20, 2015).)