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Private Sector To Take Over Quake Rebuilding Effort, nikkei, 6/15/12

TOKYO (Nikkei)–The government will tap general contractors and other private-sector companies to handle the planning of earthquake rebuilding projects from beginning to end, a move designed to ease the pressing burden on localities and speed up reconstruction.

Public works projects in Japan typically keep the surveying and planning process separate from the actual construction, with city, town and village governments contracting out each step along the way. Local governments in the areas hardest hit by the March 2011 quake continue to scramble to address shortages in personnel necessary for reconstruction planning.

The Reconstruction Agency and the Ministry of Land and Infrastructure seek to implement construction management practices — which are commonplace for public works projects in the U.S. and the U.K. — to streamline the process. Reconstruction Minister Tatsuo Hirano and Land and Infrastructure Minister Yuichiro Hata will announce the rollout of the new scheme after a cabinet meeting Friday.

Under the arrangement, a private-sector company is assigned to oversee projects from the design stage through construction. It will place construction orders, set up contracts and oversee quality management and other processes on behalf of localities. This will enable projects to enter construction as soon as designs are drawn up, making it faster for rebuilding to move forward.

The overseeing firm will hire construction companies and consultants for each segment of a project, such as repairing roads and rezoning communities. The government anticipates cost savings resulting from innovations and ideas offered by the private-sector construction managers.

The city of Higashi Matsushima and town of Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture will be the first to adopt construction management processes starting next month.

Higashi Matsushima asked the central government and others for the dispatch of 64 specialists in civil engineering and other technical fields. But so far, only 45 have been assigned to arrive through the end of July.

(The Nikkei, June 15 morning edition)

Okuma mayor ready to accept plan to reclassify no-go zone Mayor to issue declaration of no return for at least 5 years, 6/2/2012

Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe unveiled a plan on June 1 to accept the central government’s decision to reclassify the town’s no-go zone into three areas on condition that the same amount of compensation should be paid to residents over their mental or asset damage caused by the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

The central government has decided to reclassify the no-go zone into three areas in line with radiation levels — the first zone, where residents can move freely, the second, where their visits are still limited, and the third, where they will not be able to return for a long period of time.

The mayor also showed that the residents need to issue a declaration that they would not return to their hometown for at least five years after the no-go zone is reclassified into the three areas to reject different amounts of damages in line with the reclassification of the no-go zone.

Watanabe showed the plan in a meeting of all the town assembly members held in the city of Aizuwakamatsu, where the town government has established its administrative functions.

Much of the no-go zone in Okuma, where 95 percent of the town’s 11,500 residents live, is expected to be reclassified into the area where they will not be able to return for at least five years.

The central government plans to set the amount of damages for people in this category higher than those for other areas where residents can move freely or their visits are limited. The town government has rejected what it considers discriminatory treatment and called for equal payment of damages to people in the three categories. The central government is expected to show its policy over the matter at an early date in June.

If an agreement is reached with the central government over the matter, the Okuma town government plans to launch talks with the town assembly whether to accept the reclassification plan. If an agreement cannot be reached, the town government plans to continue talks with the central government.

After attending the closed-door session of all the town assembly members, Watanabe told reporters that the town government wishes to establish the living environment for residents as early as possible, noting that they are worried about the unforeseeable future. He also asked the central government to act more speedily.

returning to the sea from higher ground, yomiuri, 6/9/12

By Takehiko Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Photographer

reposted from here:

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/photos/zoomup/lens323.htm

It was 3:30 a.m. Hajime Sato, a 55-year-old fisherman, woke up and rose to his feet. He opened a window and looked out at the sea. “Terrific, the sea is calm today. I can go fishing,” he said.

Sato lives in “Shirahama restoration housing” in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. The house was part of a reconstruction project by Kogakuin University in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, and financed by mainly business donations, to build 10 new homes in the Shirahama area for people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The houses are on an inland hill 50 meters above sea level, all of them rental units. They are made out of cedar and red pine from the prefecture, and were built by local carpenters and others with the aim of contributing to the revival of the local economy.

There are five people representing four generations in the Sato family–Sato, his wife, his father, his daughter and her 9-year-old daughter. After losing their port-side house in the tsunami, they stayed at an acquaintance’s house. They then moved to temporary housing before relocating to their current place two months ago.

When they lived in temporary housing in an inland area, Sato had to drive 15 minutes to the port for fishing, but sometimes he could not set sail due to stormy weather.

The new house is seven kilometers from the local primary school, and sloping ground around the house makes walking difficult for the elderly. Sato could complain about many things, but he is grateful for his family’s new life.

“I had no idea what a relief it could be to live on a hill without worrying about tsunami,” he said, watching his granddaughter Yumi playing with a puppy they started to keep last month.

Another fisherman, Yoshinobu Sasaki, 49, lives in a house at the same settlement. He can see it on the mountainside even from one kilometer offshore, where he prepares to cultivate oysters.

“I can see the ocean from my window. That’s a good thing for fishermen,” Sasaki said with a smile.

Construction of other restoration housing, by municipal governments, has been delayed. Only two of the 11 communities in Kitakamimachi district, which includes Shirahama, have decided on collective relocation sites at higher ground. But the communities will not be able to move to the new sites for at least a year.

In April, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry extended the two-year limit on staying in temporary housing by one year in principle, but there is still no guarantee that new housing will be ready in time.

The ministry says about 110,000 people living in temporary housing away from their hometowns. Only a small minority have managed to return to a normal, quiet daily life. How long will it take for all quake victims to feel relieved at their homes?

‘Temporary towns’ plan for evacuees advances, japan times, 6/5/12

The government will create a team to support a “temporary town” plan for four Fukushima Prefecture municipalities evacuated because of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdown crisis, sources said.

The team will involve officials from the Reconstruction Agency; the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry; the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry; the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry; and the education ministry, the sources said.

The team, which is slated to hold its first meeting this week, will exchange opinions with local people to find what they need under the temporary town plan, the sources said.

The plan is being studied by the towns of Futaba, Okuma, Namie and Tomioka, all located near the stricken Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s plant.

The temporary towns are expected to have schools, shops as well as administrative functions.

Reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano has said the central government will work out concrete support measures after conducting a survey by this fall to collect local opinions about the temporary town plan.

Taxation and resident registration are among issues that must be finalized because the temporary towns will be created within other municipalities, something that would be unprecedented.

Analysts say the state also needs to provide support to municipalities that may host the temporary towns, such as the cities of Iwaki and Minamisoma, which are located in Fukushima Prefecture.

In addition, central government agencies will likely be asked to join hands in tackling issues such as buying land and securing buildings necessary for the temporary towns.

For the time being, members of the planned central government team will hold working-level discussions with Futaba, Okuma, Namie and Tomioka, and four other municipalities in Fukushima, the sources said.

Demand for ‘fair compensation’ delays reclassification of Fukushima’s evacuation zones, mainichi 6/1/12

FUKUSHIMA — The central government’s efforts to reclassify evacuation areas around the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant under a new zoning system for decontamination and financial compensation has been significantly delayed as residents in the affected regions continue to demand “fair” compensation.

Under the reclassification that the government had earlier planned to implement on April 1, the 11 municipalities falling within the evacuation zones near the damaged nuclear plant would be divided into three new zones based on radiation levels.

Financial compensation for emotional distress for residents is proposed as follows: (1) a lump sum of 6 million yen per person for residents living in zones where return is restricted for a minimum of at least five years, (2) a lump sum of 2.4 million yen per person for residents in zones where return is expected to be possible in several years, and (3) 100,000 yen per person per month for residents in zones currently being prepared for the lifting of evacuation orders.

Compensation for land and homes would also vary by zones under the proposed scheme.

Two months have passed since the government initially planned to implement the reclassification scheme, and of the 11 concerned municipalities, only three — the cities of Minamisoma and Tamura and the village of Kawauchi — have agreed to the suggested conditions.

The prefectural town of Tomioka, where radiation levels are higher in its northern regions, would be divided into three zones under the plan. Tomioka officials have resisted the reclassification, stating that as long as villagers are not offered equal compensation across the board, the town will not accept the scheme.

“With the current lack of progress in decontamination and rebuilding infrastructure, many residents will not be able to return even after the reclassification takes place, and living conditions will not change,” says Tomio Midorikawa, chief of the Tomioka Municipal Government’s consumer and environmental protection division. “Given that, it is ridiculous to judge the impact of damage through radiation levels alone, differentiating between sets of residents who were forced to evacuate.”

The town of Futaba, which would also be subjected to a three-zone reclassification, has taken a similar stance.

“When we think about the conditions of financial compensation, it is difficult to accept the reclassification,” says an official with the municipal government’s headquarters for disaster control. “Is true reconstruction possible when only residents whose homes are in low-radiation areas return?”

In an appeal for equal compensation and the tightening of standards on maximum allowable annual radiation doses, Tomioka residents launched a signature campaign in April. Having already collected signatures from some 5,000 residents — one-third of the town’s population — the petition will be soon submitted to the Tomioka Municipal Government.

Ryoichi Murai, a 61-year-old Tomioka resident, who is taking shelter in the prefectural city of Iwaki and participated in the signature campaign, urges the central government not to discriminate against residents.

“If evacuees from the same town are subjected to varying amounts of financial compensation, a sense of unfairness will grow between them,” Murai says. “I don’t want us to be discriminated against via this compensation system.”

The Minamisoma Municipal Government agreed to the reclassification plan in April, judging that decontamination and reconstruction would be delayed if the city continued to be classified as a no-go zone. However, it argues that classification and compensation are separate issues, and is appealing to the central government to compensate all residents equally.

Meanwhile, the town of Naraha is expected to fall entirely under the “evacuation order release preparatory zone,” which means all its residents would receive the same amount of compensation. The town government is planning to conduct a resident survey toward approval of the reclassification.

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