The pace of reconstruction in northeastern Japan after the powerful earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, and the subsequent nuclear disaster, differs from community to community, with a delay forecast in Fukushima municipalities affected by radiation, a Jiji Press survey has revealed.
The survey was conducted in January and February covering 42 municipalities along the Pacific coast in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, and around Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Fifteen municipalities said post-disaster reconstruction will be completed by the end of fiscal 2020, the final year of the reconstruction period designated by the central government.
Three municipalities said reconstruction will finish by the end of fiscal 2016, one by the end of fiscal 2017, six by the end of fiscal 2018 and five by the end of fiscal 2019.
The city of Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, said it is difficult to say when the construction projects will be completed.
Eleven municipalities, including nine in Fukushima, said post-disaster reconstruction won’t end until fiscal 2021 or later.
Many of the nine Fukushima towns and villages in this category cited delays in work to decontaminate areas polluted with radiation and dispose of radiation-tainted soil, and the restoration of agriculture, forestry and fishery industries.
This suggests that industry reconstruction has been tardy, affected by shipment restrictions and misinformation about radiation.
The two other municipalities projecting the completion of reconstruction after fiscal 2020 are Sendai, the capital of Miyagi, and the town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture.
Sendai faces a delay in land procurement for reconstruction projects, including one for elevating roads. The central part of Minamisanriku was devastated by the tsunami.
In Iwate, nearly 50 percent of the planned public housing for people who lost their homes in the quake and tsunami has been completed. The proportion stands at about 50 percent in Miyagi and 40 percent in Fukushima.
Of the 12 Fukushima municipalities where evacuation advisories were issued after the nuclear accident, six, including the towns of Tomioka and Okuma, said that their populations at the end of 2025 are expected to decrease by 20 percent or more from current levels.
Among other municipalities in Fukushima and the two other prefectures, five, including Minamisanriku, project drops of 15 to 20 percent and eight foresee declines of 10 to 15 percent.
“The population decrease in our town will likely accelerate, because the number of children is falling and some of the residents who have been evacuated to other areas have found new homes and jobs there and therefore opted not to return to Minamisanriku,” a Minamisanriku official said.
In Miyagi, Sendai and three nearby municipalities expect increases in their populations, on the back of inflows of evacuees from other areas and the establishment of operational hubs by construction companies.
In Fukushima, population growth is forecast in the town of Shinchi, where a new liquefied natural gas storage facility is planned.
Many of the surveyed municipalities said they want the central government to continue securing enough reconstruction funds and providing personnel support, and to increase flexibility in subsidy programs.
The earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,800 people and left over 2,500 others unaccounted for.