Impact of the municipal merger on watershed management: a study of Lake Kasumigaura, Japan

In Asia-Pacific Journal of Regional Science
Peer-reviewed Article
Impact of the municipal merger on watershed management

In the early 2000s, Japan instituted the Great Heisei Consolidation, a national strategy to promote large-scale municipal mergers. This study analyzes the impact that this strategy could have on watershed management. We select the Lake Kasumigaura Basin, the second largest lake in Japan, for the case study and construct a dynamic expanded input-output model to simulate the ecological system around the Lake, the socio-environmental changes over the period, and their mutual dependency for the period 2012–2020. In the model, we regulate and control the following water pollutants: total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and chemical oxygen demand. The results show that a trade-off between economic activity and the environment can be avoided within a specific range of pollution reduction, given that the prefectural government implements optimal water environment policies, assuming that other factors constraining economic growth exist. Additionally, municipal mergers are found to significantly reduce the budget required to improve the water environment, but merger budget efficiency varies nonlinearly with the reduction rate. Furthermore, despite the increase in financial efficiency from the merger, the efficiency of installing domestic wastewater treatment systems decreases drastically beyond a certain pollution reduction level and eventually reaches a limit. Further reductions require direct regulatory instruments in addition to economic policies, along with limiting the output of each industry. Most studies on municipal mergers apply a political, administrative, or financial perspective; few evaluate the quantitative impact of municipal mergers on the environment and environmental policy implications. This study addresses these gaps.