The Environment Ministry estimates that it will take three years for the three prefectures in northeastern Japan worst hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami to finish removing massive piles of debris left by the disaster, the ministry said Saturday.
Up to around 24.9 million tons of debris mainly from collapsed houses are assumed to be scattered around Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, according to the ministry. The amount is about 1.7 times the debris seen in the 1996 Great Hanshin Earthquake.
The actual amount of debris is expected to be larger as the assumption does not include rubble from wrecked vessels and vehicles.
The removal process is expected to be delayed due to the lack of temporary disposal sites for rubble, according to the ministry.
The Iwate prefectural government said it will need some 3 million square meters of land to temporarily store a total of 6 million tons of debris scattered around the prefecture, but has been able to secure only 40% of the land needed so far. The prefecture has relatively little flat land because of its deeply indented coastline.
The ministry said the prefecture may have to ask neighboring prefectures to lease land for disposal purposes.
Fukushima Prefecture is currently piling up debris from the disaster, which is expected to amount to 2.9 million tons excluding damaged vessels and vehicles, on some 330,000 square meters of land at fishing ports and industrial complexes.
But local officials said the space will soon be filled and that the prefectural government has no prospects for securing more sites because most public land is being used for temporary housing for evacuees.
Meanwhile, the Miyagi prefectural government said it has secured land to pile up about 16 million tons of debris. It plans to secure about 4 million square meters of land in its public windbreak forests for incineration and crushing of rubble in the near future.