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Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2012
Slow road to reconstruction
A little more than 1½ years since the 3/11 disasters devastated the Pacific side of the Tohoku region, more than 340,000 people are still living away from their homes and reconstruction is not making progress as smoothly as disaster sufferers and the local governments concerned had hoped.
It is imperative that the central government listen carefully to the voices of local residents and governments so that sufferers' lives return to normal and local industries revive as soon as possible.
According to the National Police Agency, as of Sept. 11, 1½ years after 3/11, 15,870 people had died and 2,814 others were unaccounted for as a result of the disasters. If the 1,632 deaths that occurred during or after evacuation are added, the number of victims rises to more than 20,000.
Some 343,000 sufferers were living in some 136,000 temporary residences including prefabricated houses and residences rented by local governments. Among them were some 160,000 people who have evacuated due to the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
According to the Reconstruction Agency, some 71,000 people from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures were living outside their native prefectures. Of these, some 61,000 were from Fukushima Prefecture, showing how much the nuclear accident has disrupted the lives of Fukushima residents. The collapse of communities and the isolation of elderly people are feared.
Construction of some 28,000 residences is planned in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures for disaster sufferers who cannot expect to lead a financially stable life on their own. But the construction has been very slow to start.
The central government should provide not only financial help but also legal aid to local governments concerned so that legal problems involved in construction of new residences can be resolved quickly.
Projects to construct new residences in highland areas are just about to go into full swing. For the sake of smooth construction, the central government should remove various restrictions attached to its support measures for such projects. It will also need to provide technical help, including experienced engineers, to local governments concerned.
Creating permanent jobs in disaster-hit areas through reviving local industries is imperative. The central government should allow local governments concerned to flexibly use grants for reconstruction so that local industries will be revived quickly. It also must quicken the work to remove debris, which is the basis for reconstruction of communities and industries.
In Fukushima Prefecture, adequate attention should be given to opinions of local residents when carrying out work to remove radioactive substances from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Tepco should get rid of red tape in giving compensation to Fukushima residents and provide adequate compensation.
In sum, the central government and other organizations concerned should do their utmost so that each disaster sufferer has the prospect for a stable life backed by stable employment.