A fishing boat sets out from a port lined with cranes and other machinery being used to remove rubble. (Photo courtesy of the Miyagi Prefectural Fisheries Union’s Yuriage Branch)
Eight fishing ports devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami will be fully rebuilt by the end of fiscal 2015 under a revised government disaster reconstruction schedule set for release on Nov. 29.
The plan, put together by the government’s Great East Japan Earthquake reconstruction headquarters led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, also sets near complete restoration of 416 coastal districts in five years.
The revisions to the reconstruction plan, first set on Aug. 26, came after taking into account current progress and the disaster recovery funds earmarked in the third fiscal 2011 supplementary budget. The revisions also set work schedules for 43 municipalities in six prefectures that saw significant damage in the March 11 disasters.
The plan labels the eight ports — Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture, Kamaishi and Ofunato in Iwate Prefecture, Onagawa, Ishinomaki, Kesennuma and Shiogama in Miyagi Prefecture, and Choshi in Chiba Prefecture — “national fishing bases,” and also sets a mid-term goal of restoring basic functionality by the end of fiscal 2013. It also includes provisions to restart 12 of 16 sewage treatment plants in Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate prefectures that are currently out of operation.
Dumped fishing nets and other rubbish lie waiting to be cleared at Otsuchi Fishing Port in the town of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture. The port is still not able to land fish. (Mainichi)
On rebuilding along the tsunami-ravaged seaboard from Aomori Prefecture in the north to Chiba Prefecture in the south, the revised plan states that emergency help for the many businesses and families within 50 kilometers of the Pacific coast wound down at the end of September. Instead, with basic construction preparations now complete, the government is shifting to a full-blown rebuilding effort projected to reach all disaster-affected districts in five years. The plan also calls for reclamation of some 3,660 hectares of land inundated by the tsunami in five years, and tree planting on the land in 10 years.
The revised rebuilding schedule furthermore added plans for public housing for disaster victims having trouble rebuilding their homes, and the mass relocation of tsunami-damaged neighborhoods to safer ground. However, it did not set out concrete timeframes for these projects as they are primarily municipal responsibilities.
The number of successful applications to convert agricultural land to some other use in coastal areas of Miyagi and Iwate prefectures jumped about 2.5-fold from April through October this year from the corresponding period in 2010, according to government sources.
This has given rise to concern among local governments and experts that residents may rebuild their houses without reference to any overall plan, thus hindering the efficient reconstruction of infrastructure for water supply and other essential services.
The number of applications has been rising apparently because residents who lost homes due to the March 11 quake and tsunami plan to build new houses on farmland that is on higher ground.
The central government has encouraged local governments to speed up the processing of such applications. Most have been approved, which may lead to the random building of new houses.
Under the current system, the central or relevant prefectural government must grant permission for agricultural land to be converted to some other purpose, such as residential or industrial use.
Local agricultural committees first examine the applications, and the central or prefectural governments decide whether to approve them. The system is designed to preserve high-quality farming land, which is the foundation of the national food supply, by setting restrictions on conversion.
It usually takes about three months for a landowner to obtain permission after an application is filed. However, if the land is highly productive farmland, it usually takes about six months because its designation under a law to promote farming in certain areas must be dissolved.
In coastal regions of the two prefectures, residential areas were concentrated on narrow plains. Many such areas were severely damaged by the tsunami following the March 11 quake.
In Miyagi Prefecture, many residential areas were designated as places where construction of new houses and other buildings was temporarily prohibited, to prevent random construction from obstructing future urban planning.
The Miyagi prefectural government said 15 cities and towns in its coastal areas gave permission in 518 cases for the conversion of agricultural land to residential use between April and October. The figure is about 2.5 times higher than that in the corresponding period last year.
The rise in Kesennuma in the prefecture has been remarkable: The number of authorizations jumped 6.5-fold to 257.
In 12 municipalities on the coast of Iwate Prefecture, the total number of authorizations has more than doubled from last year’s corresponding period to 358.
The prefectural government said almost all the applications were approved, if the farmland in question was not damaged by the tsunami.
The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry instructed local governments a week after the disaster to speed up procedures to convert the usage of highly productive land, to promote reconstruction.
Government officials believe the measure has encouraged people to file applications.
The home of Tadao Kanno, 67, in Kesennuma’s Karakuwacho district was destroyed by the tsunami. In July, he decided to build a new house on a farming plot behind the site of his former home and three to four meters higher upland.
His application to convert the land to residential land was approved.
Kanno underwent surgery last year, and now lives in a temporary housing unit with his wife near the site of his destroyed home.
“I can’t abandon the land, which I inherited from my ancestors. I want to rebuild my house as soon as possible,” he said.
However, local governments in the area apparently did not expect so many people would convert their farmland to residential land before a comprehensive reconstruction plan had been completed.
An official of the Miyagi prefectural government’s post-disaster reconstruction section said, “If construction of houses progresses here and there in an unordered manner, it may become difficult for us to act in accordance with our reconstruction plans for the use of land.”
(Nov. 7, 2011)
Some 40 percent of national universities across Japan are giving credits to students for their volunteer work in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has found.
While the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology notified universities in April that they can recognize students’ volunteer work as part of their courses, the measures have not been fully utilized apparently because the March 11 disaster took place at the end of the 2010 academic year.
The poll has found that while universities located in areas that have suffered extensive quake damage in the past recognize students’ volunteer activities as credits, some other universities regard it inappropriate to give such credits to students’ gratuitous acts.
The survey, conducted in September and October, covered 86 national universities, of which 83 replied except for Saitama University, Tokyo University of the Arts and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
A total of 32 universities — including Iwate University, Tohoku University and Fukushima University, which suffered severe damage by the March 11 quake disaster — answered that they are giving credits to students’ volunteer work in disaster-hit areas. Other universities affected by past quakes also extend such benefits to their students, including Kobe University and Hyogo University of Teacher Education, which were affected by the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, as well as Niigata University, Nagaoka University of Technology, and Joetsu University of Education, which were affected by the 2004 Chuetsu Earthquake and the 2007 Chuetsu-oki Earthquake.
Most of these universities give students one or two credits for 30 to 60 hours in total of volunteer activities, accompanied by a pre-volunteer lecture and post-volunteer reports.
Some 72 percent of the schools that grant credits to students’ volunteer work said they expect educational benefits through such activities. Nagaoka University of Technology said their credit-giving is aimed at nurturing voluntary and positive attitudes among students, while the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture, said it seeks to raise students’ awareness about the principle of social cooperation as members of society.
Five universities cited their support for reconstruction efforts as a reason for recognizing volunteer credits. “Supporting students’ participation in volunteer activities can lead to much-needed help for disaster-stricken areas,” said Fukushima University, while the University of Tokyo said, “It is a responsibility for a comprehensive public university to support reconstruction efforts.”
Among the 51 universities that do not give credits for students’ voluntary work, 13 schools cited their resistance to linking non-compensatory, volunteer activities to academic credits. “We are uncomfortable giving credits to students’ voluntary acts,” said the Miyagi University of Education.
(Mainichi Japan) November 7, 2011
SENDAI (Kyodo) — The number of people applying for extra jobless benefits as of September increased fourfold from a year earlier in three prefectures hit hard by the March earthquake and tsunami, demonstrating the severe employment situation there, government data showed Monday.
A total of 12,705 people in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, up from 3,213 the previous year, received the allowances at the end of September beyond the standard payout period ranging from 90 to 330 days, according to the survey by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
The government introduced in March 2009 a system that allows those who cannot land a job during the designated payout period to conditionally extend the provision of unemployment allowances for 30 or 60 days.
By prefecture, 5,890 people between jobs in Miyagi received such benefits after extending their qualification period, up 3.85 times on a yearly basis, followed by Fukushima with 4,875, up 4.46 times, and Iwate with 1,940, up 3.26 times.
The number of job seekers receiving such benefits for an extended period reached 4,575 in July in the three prefectures, more than three times the previous year’s figure, and climbed to 5,361 in August, over four times the year-earlier level, before dropping to 3,431 in September, still more than triple last year’s number.
As a special measure to support those affected by the quake, tsunami and the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture, the government earlier granted a 120-day extension of unemployment allowance payments to job seekers in the Tohoku area and extended it again for 90 more days in September.
although the overall scheduling of this trip turned out a little different than I originally planned, it also turned out to be absolutely perfect. after 10 days with all hands in ofunato, I got to attend tedxtohoku in sendai before heading back to kansai (tedxtohoku was awesome, but i’ll get to that in the next post).
but before that, and thanks to the introduction of a very kind and well-connected friend in kobe, I had the chance to meet 2 great professors at miyagi U in sendai. and not only did they agree to meet me on friday…they then invited me to join them on saturday to visit temporary housing where they are working. I just wanted to say hello and maybe just ask a few questions about their post-disaster projects with students…and then there I was, tagging along for a whole day excursion that was super informative and eye opening, thought provoking. you get the idea.
T sensei and S sensei have been involved in a number of ongoing projects and collaborations to support communities and tsunami survivors. S sensei is involved mainly from the planning and community participation aspect, and in trying to get the voices of local residents heard in the recovery process and plans. he’s also working on establishing a network/center to support recovery planning, first in miyagi. based out of the university, up until now, he is already working with a team of 8 people, who are working in the affected communities to facilitate community-building and support other needs in the built environment. there’s a plan to scale up this program and hire more than 100 people, along with establishing a center that will coordinate the support of expert community planners. T sensei is more involved with the direct needs of temporary housing residents, and along with design students, implementing small projects that have a big impact on the living environment, like furniture and additions to the temporary housing, or the construction of a small building that serves as a community space for local fishermen.
T and S sensei both do a great deal of collaboration with other universities, organizations, and groups. you can tell they have been working hard continuously and tirelessly since the tsunami. tagging along with them, I feel the same way that I felt in jogja 2 months ago, witnessing the role of local academics who are taking the lead in supporting community recovery. it’s similar to what I witnessed at LSU after katrina, and what I imagine it was like at Kobe university after the quake, and in Niigata after the chuestu earthquake. in short–it’s local academics stepping up to support their local communities after disaster, using their knowledge of the local area and connection to networks outside to leverage support. as an academic, i think it’s the most important thing ever, and it also takes up a lot of time. and this is just the beginning–this process will go on for years, likely decades.
today’s tour is to temporary housing in Higashi Matsushima, near Ishinomaki. if you have been following the disaster relief efforts at all, you have heard of Ishinomaki, which has justifiably received a lot of attention based on the severe damage it suffered, and has been a base for a number of relief organizations and efforts. nearby Higashi Matsushima, on the other hand, is not as well known, although it was also seriously damaged. one reason for this is apparently because the city office isn’t as good at getting the word out, at publicity.
today at the temporary housing, there is construction going on. part of current ‘countermeasures against cold’–insulation is being added. since these temporary housing units were built of steel, they didn’t have any insulation in their original form. these are pre-fab, constructed by a pre-fab company.
Japanese national policy for post-disaster shelter is basically: 1. Evacuation shelter, 2. Temporary housing, 3. Recovery housing. Since the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, there have been some adaptations in this policy, especially in terms of 3., and the nature of financial support. But the basic fact of “2 step” housing (temporary housing, and THEN recovery housing) has not changed. Actually, the law does not stipulate that it has to happen this way, but basically that is what happens. the funding for temporary housing comes from the central government, and the local municipality is tasked with the construction of temporary housing–they can hire any construction company that they want to for the actual building work.
what this means currently is that there are vast differences in the temporary housing that is in use right now. there’s a range of scales, designs, forms, and quality. some are built by ‘house maker’ companies, who are in the business of pre-fab house construction (for new housing developments, not just after disaster); more are built by ‘pre-fab’ construction companies. now writing this, I realize I need to clarify it a little more. but my understanding is that the ‘pre-fab’ construction companies usually are not building houses (in non-disaster times); and are responsible for the lowest quality, least livable steel prefab structures currently used in tohoku, especially in miyagi prefecture.
there are also examples of better temporary housing: especially those constructed by wood (in Sumita cho, Rikuzentaka, and in large numbers in Fukushima prefecture), which are reusable, moveable, expandable, and more comfortable for inhabitants.
there’s also a huge range in scale, with some detached units, some small groups, and some massive sites (with hundreds of units).
in addition, there’s a large variety in the patterns by which residents entered the temporary housing, and their relationship to their former neighborhoods. some people are living in temporary housing near their former neighborhoods, and some communities have been collectively relocated, meaning they know their neighbors in temporary housing. however, nearby and/or collective relocation is by far the exception; due to lack of space nearby, and the widespread use of a lottery system to award temporary housing, many or likely most neighborhoods have been randomly scattered. this, I think, is the biggest failure to learn from the lessons of the Kobe earthquake.
during the visit to Higashi Matsushima, I learned that there is a vast difference in quality between temp. housing in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures: Iwate’s is much better. Miyagi prefecture had to construct many more units, and they were built more quickly. they were also constructed more poorly. I was shocked to hear about the gaps that were common–literal gaps between walls and roofs, of more than several inches! in Japan, where quality of construction is high, I can’t understand how this happens. I feel indignant anger on behalf of the people who have to live in these units. I’m reminded of Katrina survivors who were provided with FEMA trailers…that poisoned them with formaldehyde.
the fact that Miyagi prefecture is carrying out “coldness countermeasures”, by adding insulated walls to the outsides of the unites, and double paned windows, now, is….good, but also ridiculous that this comes as an addition instead of part of the original construction. it’s such a waste of money (and furthermore, these units will be thrown away after several years). and it’s not as if was that hard to predict that there will be a cold winter in tohoku.
I don’t know what exactly lead to the problems, but trying to build the units quickly may have been part of it. I also heard that the Miyagi elected officials don’t get involved, don’t visit the disaster area.
In addition to coldness countermeasures, one of the goals of the visit was to discuss how to carry out noise countermeasures, with collaboration between academics, local city staff, and non profits.
a student from Tohoku University of Science presented the previous work their group has done in temporary housing–which is ‘customization’ of units by making furniture, shelves, etc. it’s a really interesting and important work; and a good way for design students to get involved directly in a way that really impacts peoples’ lives. an interesting note is that whereas the idea was to make replicable designs, it turned out that most people wanted different things. it was also great to hear about how after the students started working on these projects, the residents started working with them, and in some cases were teaching students about how to make things! some folks from habitat for humanity were there, invited by the city office, to see if there is a way for habitat to be involved with this project (noise countermeasures) going forward. in addition to the professors, there were also several students, 1 member of the community facilitator staff, and a local architect.
this group of around a dozen people visited the housing, including chatting with a few residents about the issues they have with their houses. some things we heard about was a lack of shelves or places to put things, cold drafts, hard to use shower arrangements.
then there was a long discussion about how the noise countermeasures could be carried out. basically this means adding soundproofing material to the walls between units. currently, it’s easy to hear what happens next door, which will become more of a problem in the winter, as people are inside more often. especially children making noise, or tv, etc. but just the situation of not being able to have a private conversation in your own house that the neighbors can’t overhear is a really stressful living environment.
finally, we went to see a different temporary housing in Motoyoshi, an area of Kessenuma. there, a NPO called apsca has been supporting the residents with modifications to their houses, including tape for sealing drafts and covering areas where heat is lost (metal structures), and adding insulation to the windows (similar to bubble wrap–which is a common technique in japan, where regular houses are also often not insulated). a surpising coincidence-the leader of the non-profit had met my professor in Kobe before–in Sri Lanka!
in one day, I learned an incredible amount about the current situation on the ground, and how the local universities are supporting communities in the disaster area. I am incredibly inspired, filled with huge respect for what they are doing, and eager to see future progress. thank you!!