Prime Minister Naoto Kan on April 14 established the 16-member Reconstruction Design Council, headed by Defense Academy President Makoto Iokibe, to draw up a grand plan to reconstruct the areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The reconstruction will be long and difficult work because of the horrific extent of the damage. The impacted Pacific coastal areas stretch some 500 km and the natural disasters have been accompanied by the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The government’s immediate task should be removing debris, constructing pre-fabricated houses for disaster victims, restoring traffic networks, rebuilding schools and re-establishing life lines such as city water, sewerage, gas and electricity.
The long-term goal should be more than just restoring towns and cities that existed before March 11. The government and the council should take a cue from the thinking of then Internal Affairs Minister Shinpei Goto, who was in charge of reconstruction of Tokyo after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. He said that the reconstruction of Tokyo should not result only in restoration of its former shape but should lead to the creation of a foundation for the country’s development and for the improvement of people’s lives.
The council should propose a large-scale vision that will help shape the future of the all of Japan and prompt necessary transformations of social and economic structures. But if the government and the council try only to impose their ideas on people of the devastated areas, it will create future problems.
The goal should be creating towns and cities that are resilient against natural disasters, friendly to active economic and cultural activities and beneficial to the well-being of residents. But disaster victims’ strong bonds to their old communities must not be forgotten. The council must humbly listen to their opinions. For their part, disaster victims and local governments should present well thought-out reconstruction plans that take into consideration natural, historical and economic conditions.