Survey finds post-disaster reconstruction slow in Tohoku prefectures


The pace of reconstruction after the powerful earthquake and tsunami that hit parts of northeastern Japan in March 2011, and the subsequent nuclear disaster, differs from community to community, with a delay forecast in Fukushima municipalities affected by radiation from the accident, a Jiji Press survey has revealed.

The survey was conducted in January and February in a total of 42 municipalities along the Pacific coast in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, and around Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station, where an unprecedented triple reactor meltdown occurred following the natural disasters.

Of the 42, 12 are in Iwate, and 15 each in Miyagi and Fukushima.

Of the total, 15 municipalities said that post-disaster reconstruction will be completed by the end of fiscal 2020 in March 2021, the final year of the reconstruction period designated by the government.

Three municipalities said reconstruction will finish by the end of fiscal 2016, one by the end of fiscal 2017, six by the end of fiscal 2018 and five by the end of fiscal 2019.

The city of Soma in Fukushima said it is difficult to say exactly when the construction projects will be completed.

Meanwhile, 11 municipalities, including nine in Fukushima, noted that post-disaster reconstruction will end in fiscal 2021 or later.

Many of the nine Fukushima towns and villages cited delays in work to decontaminate areas polluted with radiation and dispose of radiation-tainted soil, and the restoration of agriculture, forestry and fishery industries.

This suggests that industry reconstruction has been tardy, affected by shipment restrictions and misinformation about radiation.

The two other municipalities projecting the completion of reconstruction after fiscal 2020 are Sendai, the prefectural capital of Miyagi, and the Miyagi town of Minamisanriku.

Sendai faces a delay in land procurement for reconstruction projects, including one for elevating roads. The central district of Minamisanriku was devastated by the tsunami.

In Iwate, nearly 50 percent of the planned public housing for people who lost their homes in the quake and tsunami has been completed. The proportion stands at about 50 percent in Miyagi and 40 percent in Fukushima.

Of the 12 Fukushima municipalities where evacuation advisories were issued after the nuclear accident, six, including the towns of Tomioka and Okuma, said that their populations at the end of 2025 are expected to decrease by 20 percent or more from current levels.

Among other municipalities in Fukushima and the two other prefectures, five, including Minamisanriku, project drops of 15-20 percent and eight foresee declines of 10-15 percent.

An official of Minamisanriku said, “The population decrease in our town will likely accelerate, because the number of children is falling and some of the residents who have been evacuated to other areas have found new homes and jobs there and therefore opted not to return to Minamisanriku.”

In Miyagi, Sendai and three nearby municipalities expect increases in their populations, on the back of inflows of evacuees from other areas and the establishment of operational hubs by construction companies.

In Fukushima, population growth is forecast in the town of Shinchi, where a liquefied natural gas storage facility is planned to be constructed.

Many of the surveyed municipalities said that they want the central government to continue securing enough reconstruction budgets and providing personnel support, and to increase flexibility in subsidy programs.

The earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,800 people and left over 2,500 others unaccounted for.

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