It’s like a dream to once again be able to live in my “home, sweet home.”
That’s what Hidezo Sato, 72, says he feels every day since returning to his fallout-hit hometown of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.
The government partially lifted its nuclear evacuation order on March 31, six years after radiation from the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant forced them to evacuate.
Now, friends come by to chat at his home in the Gongendo district, which is much more comfortable than where he spent the past six years living as a Fukushima evacuee.
But one thing still bugs him — he doesn’t feel safe at night.
According to town officials, only about 300 residents have come back so far.
Many of the houses in Sato’s neighborhood remain uninhabited. So when he spots a car parked in the dark, it frightens him.
“If safety and security aren’t ensured, there won’t be more people coming back,” Sato said.
Sparked by returnees’ concerns about security, many recovering municipalities have set up neighborhood watch groups, installed security cameras and taken other measures to increase safety.
In December, two men were arrested on theft charges after spotted by security cameras.
In Minamisoma, City Hall is installing home security systems for returnees in the Odaka district that allow them to alert a security company simply by pushing a button. As of April 27, about 240 households, or 30 percent of the roughly 770 households that have returned, had the system installed by the city.
The number of police officers brought in from outside Fukushima to help patrol the no-go zone has been reduced to 192, or about 150 fewer than five years ago. The police presence is expected to decline further as decontamination progresses, raising concerns on how to ensure security there in the future.
Many municipalities have been funding security costs with central government subsidies, but it is unclear whether that will continue after fiscal 2020, when the state-designated reconstruction and revitalization period is scheduled to end. The Reconstruction Agency is also slated to be dissolved by then.
A top Reconstruction Agency official would only say it will “consider the issue in the future.”
For its part, the town of Namie is expected to spend about ¥700 million in fiscal 2017 to fund the neighborhood watch teams and surveillance systems. But town officials are worried whether they’ll be able to afford the systems once the subsidies dry up.
Reconstruction minister Masayoshi Yoshino, a Lower House politician representing the Fukushima No. 5 district, said in April that he will consider creating a new government entity to take over the work of the Reconstruction Agency.
“I want the government to tell us that it will continue to fund” such projects, said Namie Deputy Mayor Katsumi Miyaguchi.
This section, appearing every third Monday, features topics and issues covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on May 14.