FOUR YEARS AFTER: 80% of Fukushima municipalities expect full restoration in fiscal 2021 or later

March 06, 2015

The Asahi Shimbun
The Asahi Shimbun

This photo, taken on Feb. 11, shows new houses completed in the Tamaura-Nishi district of Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture. (Yosuke Fukudome)


Hampered by radiation contamination, about 80 percent of disaster-hit municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture will need until at least fiscal 2021 to completely restore their areas, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.

In comparison, most municipalities in the two other prefectures, Iwate and Miyagi, that were damaged in the 2011 disaster said restoration work should be completed between fiscal 2018 and 2020, according to the survey results released on March 6.

Tamotsu Baba, mayor of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture, summed up the reason behind the different timetables among the prefectures.

“The progress of decontamination work is slow,” Baba said.

Namie is only 4 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The Asahi Shimbun sent questionnaires to the leaders of 42 municipalities–12 in Iwate Prefecture and 15 each in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures–that were damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, or subject to evacuation orders after the nuclear accident unfolded.

Responses were received in February.

The central government has set the five years to fiscal 2015 as the “period for intensive restoration work” and the subsequent five years to fiscal 2020 as the “period for restoration work.”

However, 13 municipal leaders in the survey expect work to extend beyond the central government’s schedule, saying restoration will be completed in fiscal 2021 or later. Of them, 12 were in Fukushima Prefecture and one was in Iwate Prefecture.

Six municipalities said restoration will be completed from fiscal 2016 to 2017.

Twenty-two municipalities–eight in Iwate, 13 in Miyagi and one in Fukushima–said the work should end between fiscal 2018 and 2020.

None replied that restoration will be finished in fiscal 2015.

The head of Shinchi in Fukushima Prefecture was the only one who did not reply.

The prefectural governments of Iwate and Miyagi plan to build a total of 22,000 houses for disaster victims. They expect 35 percent will be completed within fiscal 2014, which ends later this month.

The completion rate will likely rise to 69 percent by the end of fiscal 2015 and further to 91 percent by the end of fiscal 2016, they said.

“The JR Onagawa Station (in Miyagi Prefecture) will resume its operations on March 21,” Onagawa Mayor Yoshiaki Suda said.

“Besides, road construction is making progress in the central part of our town.”

Fifteen of the 42 leaders said the earthquake, tsunami or the nuclear accident will “accelerate” population declines in their municipalities. Ten others also said the disasters will accelerate population declines but to a lesser degree.

“We have to take measures that lead evacuees to have hope for their future return (to their hometowns),” said Shiro Izawa, mayor of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture.

(This article was written by Satoshi Kimura, Eiichi Tsunozu and Keisuke Sato.)