Tohoku mayor sees sense of crisis waning

JIJI

The nation has lost its sense of crisis since the massive quake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan in March 2011, warns Rikuzentakata Mayor Futoshi Toba.

“The situation now is more serious than I imagined immediately after the disaster,” Toba said during an interview in his devastated city in Iwate Prefecture.

The Diet has not tried to change laws that stand in the way of reconstruction, Toba said. There is a difference in the “emotional temperature,” with local people seeking speedy reconstruction, he said.

He lamented that the sense the disaster and subsequent reconstruction efforts are a big deal for the entire country is fading.

Toba said a project to relocate houses to upland areas to protect them from future disasters has gone well. Construction orders for 25 of 28 housing estates have already been placed, while orders for the remaining three are expected to be placed by the end of March.

However, the bidding procedure has yet to be completed for a project to build public houses for 1,000 disaster-affected households due to a shortage of construction workers, material and money, Toba said.

He said it will take at least until summer 2015 to draw up a plan for land use because this is a huge project. In addition, there is concern that even then, work won’t be able to get under way because there are no places to accommodate construction workers, he said.

Toba said aqua-farming facilities for oysters and scallops have been rebuilt, and catch sizes this autumn are expected to return to levels before the disaster.

It is necessary to add extra value to primary industries and make them more attractive by boosting pay, Toba said.