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The Kabu-ido System: Innovations in an Indigenous Groundwater Management Institution

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Endo, Takahiro
Conference: Commoners and the Changing Commons: Livelihoods, Environmental Security, and Shared Knowledge, the Fourteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Mt. Fuji, Japan
Conf. Date: June 3-7
Date: 2013
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/8876
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): groundwater
design principles
Abstract: "The purpose of this paper is to describe the function of the 'Kabu-ido', which was a groundwater management system that was used in the Tokai region of Japan from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. The implications of Kabu-ido for the commons study will also be discussed. The southern part of the Noubi Plain in the Tokai region of Japan is a low lying area that is composed of a large delta that is subjected to severe flooding. The local residents in this region developed a unique system to manage the problem of flooding that became known as the ring-levee (Waju in Japanese). However, they sometimes faced severe water shortage in years when there was low precipitation. To address these occasional water shortages, irrigation by artesian wells was expanded rapidly in the ring-levee area from the early to mid-19th century. Although the development of artesian well systems greatly stabilized the water supply within the ring-levees, it led to the accumulation of drainage water in the lower part of the area. Consequently, Kabu-ido was developed to address the conflicts related to drainage within the ring-levee systems. Kabu-ido was established as early as the 1850s and it remained in use until around 1905 to solve drainage problems and provide a method for regulating uncoordinated groundwater pumping. In Japanese 'Kabu' means 'privilege to do a business' and 'ido' means 'well': thus 'Kabu-ido' can be interpreted as meaning 'privileged well' or 'the special right to dig wells'. Accordingly, a study of Kabu-ido and their development can provide useful lessons for current groundwater management systems. Although previous studies have clarified Kabu-ido, they have only focused on the history and have not considered the institutional aspects of this practice. Therefore, this study was conducted to investigate Kabu-ido from the point of view of the commons study."

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