The village of Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture fully reopened its office on July 1 for the first time in about five years since the entire village was evacuated following the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.
“We would like to do our best to have as many villagers as possible return home permanently,” Iitate Mayor Norio Kanno said, pledging to accelerate reconstruction at a ceremony held at the village office to mark the relocation of office functions from a temporary office in Iino-machi, Fukushima city.
After the ceremony, village office employees had a commemorative group photo taken against the backdrop of the office, holding works of penmanship by calligrapher Masatsugu Saito of Fukushima city, who heads the “Soryukai” group of calligraphy lovers. The works read in Japanese: “The sun also rises over the village of ‘madei’,” “gratitude,” “leap” and “heart.” The term “madei” means living with a pure, sincere heart in harmony with nature, leading a “slow life” as advocated by the village mayor.
In April 2014, the village partially resumed office functions in Iitate, limiting them to reconstruction response and two other sections. Despite the resumption of a full range of office duties, the Iino-machi office will remain as a branch to support evacuees and offer some over-the-counter services.
On July 1, registered residents also launched long-term temporary lodging at their evacuated homes in preparation for the lifting of an evacuation order set for March 31, 2017. Subject to the action are 5,917 residents of 1,770 households in two village areas — a residency-restricted zone and a zone preparing for the lifting of the evacuation order. Of the total, 193 people of 83 families have registered for the temporary stay scheme as of June 30.
The village of Iitate, entirely evacuated since the 2011 nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, will reopen its office in July next year. Village head Norio Kanno told reporters on Nov. 30 that functions of its temporary office in Iino town will be relocated to the evacuated office building to resume business on July 1.
In the village, preparations are under way for residents to return home, including work to build a reconstruction base, village-run residences and a community hall, along with progress in decontamination work. With the relocation of key village office functions, Iitate will seek to step up reconstruction of village life toward the goal of having an evacuation order lifted by the spring of 2017.
According to the mayor, Iitate has set July for village office resumption because April is a busy month, closing the books for fiscal 2015 ending in March 2016. It will maintain over-the-counter services such as the issuance of residence certificates at the existing temporary office in Iino.
(Translated by Kyodo News)
link to original article: http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=479
The Reconstruction Agency’s latest survey has found the proportion of evacuees from Iitate village, Fukushima Prefecture, desiring to return to their hometown increased 8.1 percentage points to 29.4 percent from the previous survey in November 2013. The results of the fiscal 2014 survey for the village were released by the agency on March 6.
Iitate was the last among the prefecture’s municipalities to see the outcome of a round of surveys taken during the current fiscal year through March 31 concerning evacuees’ intention to return to their hometowns. Among the seven towns and villages for which each survey asked about residents’ desire to return, the proportion of people thinking of going back grew in five municipalities.
An official of the Reconstruction Agency said the increase was probably because “decontamination work has progressed and more residents are thinking more positively about returning.” Another factor that is believed to have led to more people expressing their desire to go back is the addition to the survey’s response choices of a note saying “includes a desire to return in the future.” Of the respondents from Iitate, 32.5 percent said they have not yet decided, down 3.6 points from the previous survey, and 26.5 percent said they have decided not to return, down 4.3 points.
Norio Kanno, the mayor of Iidate where residents of the entire village were evacuated due to the March 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, said on March 4 that he is considering setting March 2016 as the target time for lifting evacuation orders for four administrative districts currently designated as zones where preparations can be made toward lifting the evacuation orders, as well as 15 administrative districts where habitation is restricted.
The Environment Ministry’s radiation cleanup work in residential areas in Iidate’s zones where preparations can be made toward lifting the evacuation orders and those where habitation is restricted is expected to be completed at the end of March 2015. Kanno said he set the provisional target time for lifting the zone designations after determining that once the central government’s decontamination is finished, it will likely take about a year for residents to repair their homes and carry out other preparations for returning.
But there is a possibility that the actual lifting of the evacuation orders may be delayed depending on how the decontamination work progresses. The local government will consult with the village assembly and residents this fall to decide on a more specific target time.
The districts where preparations can be made toward lifting the evacuation orders are located in the western and northern parts of Iidate, and the number of people registered as residents in these districts was 788 as of the end of February. The districts where habitation is restricted are mainly in the central part of the village, with 5,260 registered residents.
Plans to build new public apartments for the nuclear refugees in Fukushima Prefecture are stalling because the prefectural government is struggling to attract bids from contractors.
On Jan. 31, Fukushima announced that a project for a 16-unit concrete apartment complex in the city of Aizuwakamatsu in the western part of the prefecture failed to attract bidders. It failed because the eight private contractors who participated didn’t make offers that matched the prefecture’s budget amid surging demand for labor and materials in disaster-hit Tohoku.
It was Fukushima’s second public housing project to attract bids. Last August, an offer for a 20-unit apartment block in the city of Koriyama also failed twice. The prefecture finally found a contractor after raising the initial price twice.
Efforts to acquire land for new apartments are also stalling as negotiations with landowners are taking longer than expected. Of the 3,700 units scheduled to be completed by the end of 2015, only 60 percent, or 2,360, were ready to be built, unhindered by land acquisition problems.
Because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that unfolded in March 2011, six towns and villages that had to be evacuated — Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba, Namie, Katsurao and Iitate — plan to build “out-of-town” communities where reinforced public apartments play a central role. The prefecture plans to build 4,890 units to house people from these and 13 other municipalities.
The prefecture has not come up with good ideas to expedite public housing, and the evacuees are facing the very real possibility they could be in temporary lodging for years to come. The fastest project to be completed so far is the 20-unit complex in Koriyama, which won’t start accepting residents until October.
When the evacuees move in, the prefectural government plans to let groups of residents who formed close ties in the shelters occupy neighboring units at the new apartments so those relationships can be preserved.
This is a lesson learned from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, when the shift to permanent public housing severed bonds the evacuees had formed in its aftermath, leaving them socially isolated and leading to a surge in solitary deaths.