collective relocation, planning, reconstruction, relocation, yomiuri shinbun

Tohoku eyes mass relocations / Central govt funds lacking, but 26 coastal municipalities want to move, yomiuri shinbun, 8/12/11

Twenty-six out of of 37 municipalities in coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures are considering large-scale residential relocations to higher or inland ground, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

The municipalities were devastated by tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The central government may cover a greater share of relocation costs because of local government requests, but has not made its policy clear.

The local governments have therefore been unable to implement practical measures and residents are increasingly discontented.

The 37 municipal governments were surveyed about their relocation plans leading up to the five-month anniversary of the March 11 disaster.

Of the 26 municipalities considering relocation, nine are in Iwate Prefecture, 13 in Miyagi Prefecture and four in Fukushima Prefecture.

Among them, 21 municipal governments stipulated relocation plans in their respective reconstruction plans or basic policies.

The number of households to be affected by mass relocations in Miyagi Prefecture stands at about 15,000, according to nine municipal governments.

Among them, the Sendai city and Minami-Sanrikucho town governments have estimated up to 3,200 households each need to relocate.

However, only about 5,500 households in the prefecture have started practical planning.

These households span 87 districts from 11 cities and towns.

Residents have held discussion meetings in 62 of these districts, and about 4,000 households said they are willing to join a mass relocation, the survey results showed.

The local governments are hoping a Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry disaster prevention scheme will help cover mass relocation project costs.

Under the scheme, the central government shoulders 75 percent of costs for land development and other necessary work, with municipal governments covering the remaining quarter.

But the municipal governments can receive further subsidies from central government tax revenues so that the central government shoulders up to 94 percent of the costs.

This depends, however, on the ceiling for central government expenditure, so tsunami-hit local governments have asked the central government to raise the subsidy rate for financial aid.

“As the central government’s policy remains undecided, our relocation plan is up in the air,” one official of the city government of Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, complained.

In Kesennuma, residents’ associations in favor of mass relocation have submitted a demand for the matter to be quickly resolved.

The city government of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, had hoped to draft its reconstruction plan, which includes the uphill relocation of residential areas, in July.

But the city government has been forced to delay the draft for two months.

“It’s impossible–our budget alone is not enough. We need additional aid from the central government,” Mayor Kimiaki Toda said.

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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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