The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said this week that the number of people moving out of Fukushima Prefecture in the last six months has reached 25,606, creating the highest recorded population exodus of any prefecture in that six-month period.
The number of people moving to the prefecture during the same time period was reported to be 14,054, creating a loss of 11,552 residents, a ministry spokesperson said, reporting on the results of a survey.
The ministry says the figure is a decrease on the number of people who left the prefecture immediately following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, which is believed to have reached around 25,000. However, the figure is still around double that recorded before the earthquake and the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant began, NTV reported.
Katsuya Endo, mayor of Tomioka town in Fukushima Prefecture, declared on Sept. 26 that the town government and residents would be unable to return home for at least five years from now because it will take time to decontaminate the town from radioactive substances and restore its infrastructure.
The mayor issued the declaration after the Tomioka town assembly unanimously passed at its extraordinary session that day a resolution vowing not to lift an evacuation order for at least five years from now. The town assembly held the session in the city of Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture.
Tomioka 2nd Fukushima Pref. municipality not to return home for long period
The town of Tomioka became the second municipality in Fukushima Prefecture that has decided not to return home for a long period of time. Earlier, the town of Okuma, which is one of the two towns hosting the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi power plant, declared its residents would not return home for a long period of time.
The resolution passed by the town assembly said the town has come to a decision that all its residents cannot return home for six years since the outbreak in March 2011 of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
As reasons for the declaration, the resolution cited a lack of effective radioactivity decontamination technologies, insufficient results of decontamination work and time-consuming work to restore infrastructure.
The resolution said it is not clear when farmers can resume agricultural work and that it is difficult to create industries and offer jobs to residents.
The resolution also pointed out a lack of medical, educational and welfare institutions as well as retailers. It also said the central government-set criteria of the annual radioactivity dosages of 20 millisieverts for residents to return home is not enough to dispel residents’ worries about their health from radiation. The resolution also expressed doubt about the safety of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in the future.
Endo said the resolution reflects the town government’s resolve to declare that residents are unable to return home for a long period of time. “We would like to see the central government take the resolution very seriously,” Endo said.
The town of Tomioka is expected to be reclassified shortly into three zones — an area difficult to return to for a long time, a residence-restricted area with visitation-only access and an area readying for the lifting of evacuation orders.
The timing of the lifting of evacuation orders would be one of the criteria for calculations on the payment of compensation for properties and houses. The central government will decide when to lift the evacuation orders following a decision by each municipality.
The Tomioka town government plans to notify the central government of its decision by declaring that the residents cannot return home for six years since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster.
But the central government has shown reluctance to pay an equal amount of damages to residents in the three areas to be reclassified, noting the need to maintain equality with other municipalities.
Developers are snapping up land plots in upland areas of tsunami-hit coastal cities in the Tohoku region at inflated prices, pushing up land values and hampering local governments’ mass relocation plans, it has emerged.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s standard land price report for 2012, which was released on Sept. 19, land plots in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures made the top 10 list of highest appreciation rates for residential properties, while four land plots in Miyagi Prefecture ranked in the top 10 list of those rated for commercial zones.
The survey indicates that property prices in the Tohoku region are on the recovery track in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, but that soaring land prices could trigger a shortage of land suitable for local municipalities to relocate residential areas to and affect their efforts for recovery.
In June, the Rikuzentakata Municipal Government in Iwate Prefecture decided to relocate three junior high schools that were hit by the tsunami in March last year and were eventually consolidated, to an upland forest and farming area. However, part of the land plot that the city was planning to purchase — about 4,000 square meters — had already been subject to acquisition negotiations between a major home builder and the land owner. According to sources close to the matter, the home builder is offering a purchase price of 10,000 yen per square meter — nearly 10 times the price that the central government pays when buying land to construct roads in mountain areas.
The municipal government was forced to change its relocation plans and subsequently moved the planned construction site to the north. “Land owners may well want to sell their land to those who would purchase it at higher prices, but the government cannot fork out such hefty prices as private companies do,” said Rikuzentakata Vice Mayor Takashi Kubota. An official with the city board of education also expressed concern, saying, “Even though they are private companies, they should take local governments’ plans into consideration when they purchase land.”
Such free acquisition of land by private corporations could also affect moves to relocate residential areas to upland areas. In part of the city of Ofunato, which neighbors Rikuzentakata, candidate sites for the city-led collective relocation to upland areas have already fallen prey to companies’ land acquisition bids.
Because flat land is limited in coastal areas in Iwate Prefecture, the companies’ moves are feared to lead to soaring land prices. While the prefectural government is authorized to set up “monitoring areas,” in which land developers are required to declare beforehand the purpose of use of the land and transaction prices, it is not empowered to abort land purchase contracts. “We have no choice but to call for fair price deals through our public relations office,” said an official with the prefectural government.
Meanwhile, the demand for relocation to inland and upland areas is growing in Miyagi Prefecture. In the city of Ishinomaki, whose commercial land appreciation rate ranked at the top of the country at 11.8 percent, the popularity of the Kokucho district is booming as areas for building condominiums for disaster victims.
A real estate operator in the city testified that the land that remained unsold before the March 2011 quake disaster has since sold out. However, many disaster victims are elderly people, and those who can not afford to buy their own houses have limited options. “The home boom won’t last long,” said the realtor.
The appreciation rate of land prices in the Kokubuncho area in Sendai’s Aoba Ward — a busy shopping and entertainment district in the heart of Sendai — marked 5.4 percent, becoming the eighth highest in the country. “The consumption here has been invigorated thanks to the influx of companies for reconstruction projects,” said a real-estate appraiser.
Sendai, Miyagi Pref., Sept. 13 (Jiji Press)–State-backed subsidies to help the rehabilitation of small businesses hit hard by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami have been held up by delays in the restoring of infrastructure in ruined northeastern Japan coastal areas.
Some 18 months after the disaster, 61 pct of the subsidies approved by prefectural governments in fiscal 2011 have not yet been distributed to applicants, because work to restore areas with subsidence and to overhaul and zone submerged land has not made smooth headway, impeding the reconstruction of destroyed or damaged plants and stores.
The subsidy program, financed by national and local governments, is intended to cover as much as three-quarters of the cost of rebuilding the destroyed or damaged facilities of businesses that are seen as essential to supply chains as well as local economies and job markets, among other eligibility criteria.
To be approved to receive the subsidies, small businesses need to team up into groups. Even then, aid is available only after the affected facilities are rebuilt.
Unusual in its use of public funds to help private businesses, the program attracted a flurry of applications.
Four towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture have yet to formulate recovery plans 18 months after the devastating March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, a Mainichi survey has found — underscoring the long-term effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the quake.
The Mainichi conducted a survey on recovery measures in Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures ahead of the 1 1/2 year anniversary of the March 11, 2011 disaster. Municipalities were given until late August to submit responses.
In Fukushima Prefecture, the Mainichi surveyed 15 municipalities in coastal areas and evacuation zones. The town of Namie was one of four municipalities in the prefecture that have yet to form reconstruction plans. It said the nuclear disaster had prevented it from doing so.
Two of the 11 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture that have already formed recovery plans said they were planning to revise those initiatives. The town of Kawamata responded that it would revise measures on the return of evacuees, while the town of Naraha, which has also been affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, explained that it would revise its recovery preparations as “daily circumstances have been changing since the formulation of plans, as seen in the rezoning of no-go areas.”
Moves have been progressing in areas hit by the March 2011 tsunami to relocate communities as a disaster prevention measure. The Fukushima Prefecture municipalities of Shinchi, Soma and Minamisoma have received approval from the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism for the relocation of all homes under such measures, while the city of Iwaki has received approval for some 70 percent of homes due to be relocated. However, the town of Tomioka has not yet received approval for any home relocations. Officials say they will handle the issue once evacuation districts are realigned and work is carried out to decontaminate the town from radioactive materials emanating from the disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.
A shortage of manpower has been raised as an issue in areas recovering from the disaster, but 11 municipalities in the prefecture have received support workers from other local bodies. Most of the 11 cities, towns and villages that gave concrete figures for the shortage of workers said they lacked technical workers.