Onagawacho’s reconstruction plan calls for the preservation of four tsunami-hit buildings, including a toppled police box and an office building owned by dietary supplement maker Onagawa Supplement. Surrounding areas will be turned into a memorial park.
“We want there to be two major aspects to the preservation: passing on a record of the damage caused by the disaster to future generations and promoting tourism,” Takuro Kimura, 62, managing director of the Glocal Empowerment, Support and Aid Institute, said at the third meeting of the reconstruction committee.
Yet a committee member chosen from among local residents said, “I couldn’t object when a scholar talked about the ‘academic value’ [of preserving damaged structures].”
Some building owners have turned down proposals to preserve the structures and some residents at a public hearing on the subject said it was painful to see them.
“We’ll think carefully about how to preserve them,” Kimura said.
“I hope the plan doesn’t end up as a pipe dream,” Takanobu Takahashi, 67, head of a buyers’ cooperative association at the Onagawa fish market, said at his prefab office late last month.
Despite the many blueprints for post-disaster reconstruction, Onagawacho currently has no prospects of securing the necessary funds.
Regarding the procurement and development of plots of land for communities to relocate their houses en masse, there is a plan whereby the central government bears 94 percent of the cost through subsidies and other means.
However, there is a upper limit on subsidies, making it highly likely local municipalities will bear a heavy financial burden.
The Miyagi prefectural government did a tentative calculation in June of a post-disaster reconstruction project, including the relocation of residents’ homes. It envisioned a municipality on essentially the same scale as Onagawacho, with about 10,000 people and an initial budget of about 6 billion yen in fiscal 2010.
The prefecture estimated such a project would cost 210.7 billion yen to implement, of which the local government would have to shoulder 116.5 billion yen.
According to these figures, Onagawacho would have to pay about 20 times its actual annual budget for the reconstruction project.
Many local municipalities are drawing up their post-disaster plans based on the steps to be taken by the central government, but Onagawacho drafted its plan fairly quickly.
“I wanted to show the will of our residents early, rather than taking a wait-and-see approach,” Mayor Nobutaka Azumi said.
“With the existing framework, the town’s finances will collapse. We want the central government to respond to our wishes through such measures as creating a new system whereby local municipalities have a small [financial] burden,” he said.