A JAPANESE HIGH COURT IN Fukoka has overturned a lower court ruling that agreed with Japan’s central government’s decision to build a dam.

The High Court ruled that the government violated a law on irrigation and rezoning when it approved the construction of the dam. The court decision is expected to help residents who are opposed to the construction of one of the largest dams in Kyushu.

The Fukuoka High Court said the agriculture ministry failed to obtain approval from two thirds of local farmers for its plans to rezone farmland and use water from the dam for irrigation. The two-thirds’ requirement is stipulated under the land improvement law.

The dam, currently being built on the Kawabegawa river in Kumamoto Prefecture, is to be completed in 2008. The purpose of the project, according to the government, is to generate power, prevent flooding and provide water for agricultural irrigation. But many of the 719 farmers in the lawsuit have joined other groups in calling for an end to the US$512M dam construction and the irrigation-rezoning project.