collective relocation, community, evacuation, futaba, okuma, temporary housing, tomioka, yomiuri shinbun

Making a home away from home / Tomioka plans to create 3 temporary towns to encourage residents’ return, yomiuri, 4/22/12

FUKUSHIMA–The town government of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, which is located entirely within the no-entry zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, plans to create three “temporary Tomiokas” for evacuated residents, it has been learned.

The plan aims at preserving the town residents’ communities, which were dispersed after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at the plant. According to a draft of the plan, the three locations will be in the cities of Iwaki and Koriyama in the prefecture, and a part of Tomioka where radiation is low.

Town government officials revealed the plan on Friday at a town committee meeting to discuss reconstruction plan.

However, it is expected to be difficult to realize the project, as consultations with relevant municipalities have not progressed.

According to the plan, the Tomioka town government will first set up its headquarters in the town. It will then prepare for the future return of its residents by conducting decontamination work, readying water supply and sewage systems, and encouraging the relocation of residences in areas hit by the March 2011 tsunami to higher ground.

For residents unable to return to the town in the near future, the town government will encourage them to live in temporary “satellite Tomiokas” in Iwaki and Koriyama.

The town government will ask residents to move back to Tomioka when they are ready to return.

The town’s population as of the end of March was 14,608, including about 4,000 in Koriyama, where the town government is temporarily located, and about 5,000 in Iwaki.

In Tomioka’s planned temporary sites in Iwaki and Koriyama, the town government intends to set up public housing, hospitals, schools and nursing homes for its evacuees.

According to the plan, the town government will name one site after sakura (cherry), the town’s tree; one after tsutsuji (azalea), the town’s flower; and one after sekirei (wagtail), the town’s bird.

The original Tomioka is thus expected to be called Sakura Tomioka, while its temporary locations will be Tsutsuji Tomioka in Iwaki, and Sekirei Tomioka in Koriyama.

Meanwhile, the central government is expected to reclassify the town into three zones.

Zones where accumulated radiation exposure exceeds 50 millisieverts per year will be designated as “zones where residency is prohibited for an extended period.”

Zones with annual exposure from 20 to less than 50 millisieverts per year will be designated as “zones with restricted residency,” where residents will be permitted to make brief visits to their houses while being urged to remain evacuated.

Zones where radiation exposure is below 20 millisieverts per year will be designated as “zones preparing to lift restrictions on residents’ return.”

Sakura Tomioka will be created by selecting areas with low radiation from the “zones preparing to lift restrictions on residents’ return,” with a decontamination target of 1 millisievert or less per year.

In the areas, the town government plans to prepare collective housing and other facilities.

However, an area where the town office was previously located is not likely to be included in Sakura Tomioka because radiation there is still relatively high.

In the two satellite towns in Koriyama and Iwaki, the town government plans to ask its residents to move from temporary housing units or privately rented houses to shared or individual houses.

The town government will consider establishing medical facilities and water supply and sewage systems independently, to avoid overburdening the Koriyama and Iwaki city governments. It also will conduct a survey to determine its residents’ intentions regarding the plan prior to compiling the town’s reconstruction plan in July.

However, the town government has yet to explain details of the plan to the two city governments, a town official said.

“We’d like to consult with the central and prefectural governments as well as the relevant local governments to flesh out the details of the plan,” the official said.

Among local governments that have relocated their offices, the town governments of Okuma and Futaba–both near the crippled power plant–also are considering creating temporary towns in other municipalities.

The town government of Okuma has announced a plan to establish a “temporary Okuma” in Iwaki or municipalities around Iwaki.

The town government of Namie also is planning to prepare communities in the cities of Iwaki and Minami-Soma.

Concerning such moves by municipalities, Iwaki Mayor Takao Watanabe said Thursday: “The city of Iwaki has also suffered serious damage due to the earthquake and tsunami. The housing shortage and strain on medical and nursing services are becoming more severe.

“The central government should create a road map for municipalities of Futaba County [in the prefecture] that indicates a timeline for the residents to return to their original municipalities.

“We don’t know how long we’ll need to support them,” Watanabe added.

A senior Koriyama city official on Friday declined to comment about the Tomioka’s plan.

(Apr. 22, 2012)

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About liz

from the u.s., recently moved from kobe to sendai, japan, researching community-based housing recovery after disaster.

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