Just 22% of new seawalls are finished in areas hit by 2011 tsunami

Kyodo

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

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

The central government and local governments in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures plan to build 405 km (252 miles) of seawalls along the coast. But just 88 km, or 22 percent, had been completed by Jan. 1, while 263 km of walls were still under construction. Work had not even started on the other 54 km of walls.

Japan on Saturday marked the sixth anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disasters, which also triggered catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Some residents oppose the building of seawalls, saying they would no longer be able to see the water. Initial plans for walls rising 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,” one Iwate Prefectural Government official said.

According to an official with the local government in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, much of the delay was to due this factor.

“It took time to build a consensus with local residents” to balance disaster prevention with maintaining the scenery, the official said.

Other officials also cited a shortage of construction workers and building materials amid the ongoing reconstruction work.

“A shortage of building materials and human resources is a major factor” in the delay, said an official from Miyako, Iwate Prefecture.

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

Irregular topography in the Iwate and Miyagi portions of the Sanriku region also add to difficulties in building the seawalls. In the Miyagi city of Kesennuma, only 0.7 km of the planned 9.7 km of walls is complete.