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Only 22% of seawall building finished in areas hit by 2011 tsunami

SENDAI (Kyodo) -- Only a fifth of the planned seawalls have been constructed in northeastern Japan areas devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, a Kyodo News survey found.

    The central government and local governments in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures plan to build 405 kilometers of seawalls along the coast. But only 88 km, or 22 percent, had been completed by Jan. 1 while 263 km were still under construction. Work had not even started on the other 54 km of walls.

    Japan will mark the sixth anniversary on Saturday of the March 11, 2011 disasters that also triggered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant catastrophe.

    Some residents oppose the building of seawalls, saying they would no longer be able to see the sea if one were built. Initial plans for the walls standing up to 15 meters above sea level have been revised at 32 locations due to complaints, the survey found.

    "Municipal governments have requested reconstruction that takes into consideration the scenery," said an Iwate prefectural government official.

    "It took time to build a consensus with local residents" in an attempt to balance promoting disaster prevention and maintaining the scenery, an official of the municipal government of Ishinomaki, Miyagi, said.

    Some officials also cited a shortage of construction workers and building materials, the result of so much reconstruction work in the area.

    "A shortage of building materials and human resources is a major factor" causing the delay, an official from the city of Miyako, Iwate, said.

    The three prefectural governments initially planned to complete building the seawalls by March 2016. But Iwate and Miyagi have now been forced to push back completion to March 2021.

    Construction work has yet to start in areas near the disaster-struck Fukushima nuclear plant, and it remains uncertain whether the seawall work planned in that prefecture can be completed by March 2020 as planned.

    Complex topography at the Rias coasts in the Sanriku region stretching in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures also add to difficulty in building the seawalls. In the city of Kesennuma, Miyagi, only 0.7 km of the 9.7-km construction was completed.

    The survey conducted in January and February asked prefectural, municipal and central governments about the status of construction as of Jan. 1.

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