About Us

The word "Sabo"

"World Heritage Forum 2012" was held on 29 July 2012 in Tokyo. This is the 4th Forum in a series starting in 2009. The purpose is to present widely in Japan and abroad the value of Tateyama Sabo from historical, cultural and technical point of view in support of movement towards registration of Tateyama Sabo as a world heritage by Toyama Prefecture*. The details of the Forum will appear in ISN sometime later.

According to Agency of Cultural Affairs, one of conditions for the registration of Tateyama Sabo as a world heritage is wide recognition of the importance of Sabo in the world. The Forum was held in accordance with this condition.

At the Forum, Mr. Andreas Goetz, Vice Director of Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), Switzerland, who was invited to the Forum as a guest speaker, proposed in his presentation as follows:

"Japanese people and even foreigners who have knowledge of actual sabo works in Japan and of the meaning of SABO in the Japanese ideographic writing may easily have a visual image of sabo from this simple word, however, it is not so easy for a majority of foreigners who have no such knowledge to become familiar with this terminology. As a way to ease this problem, I would propose that SABO has English meaning such as "Sustainable Actions Basin Oriented" besides the original Japanese meaning: SA(sand) BO(prevention)"

This proposal was generally welcomed by the participants in the Forum, but unfortunately could not be discussed much due to limitation of time.

Let us look back briefly how "Sabo" was proposed as an international term for erosion control works in upstream areas. In January 1951, Dr. Walter C. Lowdermilk, an advisor to GHQ**, visited "sabo works" in Japan and was deeply impressed with the scale and effectiveness of those works carried out by the government.

He wrote in his report "Water Resources and Related Land Use in Japan" that "Sabo is an apt Japanese term first used in the law of 1889 to designate works of check dams in stream channels and revegetation of eroding slopes as related and supplementary activities"

Then at IAHS*** General Assembly in Bruxelles in 1951, he made a presentation on "Problems in Reducing Geological Erosion in Japan" and in conclusion he proposed such works for torrent and mountain stream control be called "Sabo Works".

In view of the mission of ISN to promote knowledge/experience sharing among engineers and disaster managers engaged in sediment related disaster reduction in the world, I would like to invite your comment on whether "English SABO" will be useful or not, if yes, any suggestion on English wording for SABO will be highly appreciated.

Toyama Prefecture has been preparing for the registration of Tateyama Sabo as "World Heritage" since a few years ago in cooperation with government organizations, various groups of citizens, academic institutes etc. Siraiwa sabo dam, the core of Tateyama Sabo, was registered as "Important Cultural Property" in 2009 by the Japanese Government.
General Headquarters/Supreme Commander of Allied Powers. Dr Lowdermilk was an advisor to Natural Resources Section of GHQ.
International Association of Hydrological Sciences

September 2012

Hidetomi Oi

President, International Sabo Association