The Reconstruction Design Council, an advisory body for Prime Minister Naoto Kan, is entrusted with the task of drawing a grand vision for the reconstruction of northeastern Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Prime Minister Naoto Kan has asked the council to draw a “creative reconstruction plan.” He, for example, proposed building eco-towns in the Tohoku-Pacific region, which will be both eco-friendly and resilient to natural disasters.

But many areas in the region, still struggling with the removal of debris, have not yet started concrete reconstruction work. If the council works out a reconstruction vision without establishing a rapport with people in the devastated areas, they will only feel that it is trying to impose its vision on them. The council members should realize that their job is difficult. The devastated areas are vast and the situation is different from area to area.

Council chairman Makoto Iokibe said that the central government should first work out a framework for the reconstruction and that local governments should work out detailed plans. He added that in some cases, it would be better to establish councils of experts in communities within a municipality and to absorb opinions in a bottom-up way.

What he proposed is easier said than done. The council should not only present a grand goal but also draw concrete paths that will lead to achieving of the goal. Without this, the council’s plan will lack persuasive power. It should pay special attention to the situation in Fukushima Prefecture, which is suffering from the contamination of the environment with radioactive substances from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant. The council should consider how reconstruction will be possible in areas to which residents are unlikely to return for some time.

The reconstruction will take a great deal of time and money. Mr. Kan should seriously consider what kinds of actions on his part will be the best for the rebuilding. If retaining political power is his priority, it would only deepen the misery of disaster sufferers.

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