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40% of local leaders doubt 3.11 disaster area recovery by 2020 due to Fukushima crisis

Many trucks are seen engaged in land redevelopment work in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, on March 9, 2017. (Mainichi)

About 40 percent of 42 local leaders along the coasts of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures doubt their areas will recover from the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Games due to the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis, a Mainichi Shimbun survey shows.

    A large majority of the pessimistic local chiefs represent cities, towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture where many residents were forced to evacuate following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The survey results show that these municipalities have yet to recover from the meltdowns.

    The central government has categorized a five-year period from fiscal 2011 as an intensive recovery period, and another five-year period from fiscal 2016 as a recovery and building period. It plans to spend as much as 32 trillion yen over a 10-year period ending in fiscal 2020 to complete recovery operations and abolish the Reconstruction Agency. It aims to support Fukushima and other disaster-stricken prefectures, but has no clear budget provision.

    The Mainichi Shimbun received written responses from all 12 city, town and village mayors it queried in Iwate Prefecture, and from all 15 mayors queried in each of Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

    While only two municipal chiefs in Iwate and one in Miyagi did not anticipate an end to recovery efforts by fiscal 2020, 13 local leaders in Fukushima Prefecture -- including those in evacuation zones -- shared this view. Only the Shinchi town mayor replied that recovery will be possible by fiscal 2020, while the mayor of Soma said he did not know.

    Many local leaders in Fukushima Prefecture say they do not expect recovery operations to be completed by fiscal 2020 due to negative effects from the nuclear disaster. The town of Namie says it does not anticipate an end to recovery operations in three years, pointing out that the recovery speeds in areas hit by tsunami versus the nuclear disaster are obviously different.

    The town of Futaba, 96 percent of which is designated as a difficult-to-return zone, says post-disaster restoration has not even started. Kawauchi village, which has already seen its evacuation order lifted, laments that its population is set to drop drastically due to a very low birthrate and a rapidly aging citizenry.

    Rikuzentakata and Otsuchi in Iwate, and Yamamoto in Miyagi, responded that they are unlikely to witness a full recovery by fiscal 2020. Rikuzentakata explained that its new city hall isn't scheduled to be completed until fiscal 2021. The town of Otsuchi cited a delay in a land redevelopment project and other reasons. The town of Yamamoto said that community formation at mass relocation sites and psychological recovery take a long time.

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