Japan Begins to Tear Down Aging Infrastructure

In Other News - April 23rd, 2014

Japan is looking to touch up parts of the nation by demolishing aging infrastructure, as the government struggles to cope with maintaining public works outside of larger cities.

As more members of the younger generation choose to migrate to urban areas, maintaining large-scale infrastructure in rural areas is becoming an increasing burden to local governments.

Since authorities in Kumamoto Prefecture began bulldozing the 210-meter-wide Arase Dam in January, local governments started closing off bridges and tunnels. The razing of the 60-year-old hydroelectric dam was the first planned demolition of such a structure in Japan.

On the list of pieces of Japan’s crumbling infrastructure local government’s have on the “tear-down list” are apartment blocks, gymnasiums and school buildings.

According to government data, Japan’s population will drop by 16 percent, with the working-age population plunging by 29 percent, over the next decades.

“As the working-age population declines, so will tax revenue, reducing the budget available for maintaining infrastructure,” a senior government official said.

Along with the decline in the total population is a growing gap in skilled labor that is needed to provide adequate support for such public projects, prompting authorities to simplify maintenance—by knocking them to the ground.

The collapse of a highway tunnel in central Japan that claimed the lives of nine people in December 2012 has also raised issues regarding the safety of infrastructure in Japan, where efficiency is often overlooked by low-tech, labor intensive methods.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: “Construction” by jimgris/Flickr