Housing help for evacuees

Two and a half years have passed since the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis devastated the Pacific areas of the Tohoku region. The central and local governments must work out measures to create thriving businesses in the disaster-hit areas. The central government also must extend essential help to people affected by the nuclear crisis who cannot or do not want to return to their homes in Fukushima Prefecture as well as to those who want to do so.

The central government is working to decontaminate areas polluted with radioactive substances from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. In some areas the decontamination work is done and people can return to their homes. But in many cases people cannot move back because schools, banks, supermarkets, offices and hospitals are in areas that remain contaminated.

An increasing number of people have decided to remain in the places to which they evacuated due to concerns about their children’s health and education, and the availability of jobs. Tepco should pay more compensation to these people so they can buy new homes. If Tepco cannot afford to do so, the central government should consider using public money, including the budget for reconstruction from the effect of the 3/11 disasters, for this purpose.

The central government is pushing a plan to create “temporary towns” in decontaminated areas and encourage whole communities of people to move there together. The central government needs to create job opportunities as well if these communities are to succeed. The most important thing is for the government to be ready to help both those people who want to return home and those who want to build new lives in new places.

In Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, large groups of people are moving into homes built in highland areas and others are moving into permanent public housing. But for now many people are still living in temporary prefabricated housing. Since these structures are rather flimsy, local governments should make sure that residents living in them remain safe, comfortable and healthy.

The population is rapidly graying in some disaster-hit areas because young people are moving away to cities to find work. The central and local governments must do what they can to help restore the agriculture, fisheries and tourism industries. In line with this goal, they should provide incentives to private-sector companies to set up new business operations in these areas.