This tag is associated with 15 posts

Disaster risks affect land prices in wake of quake disaster, typhoon, mainichi, 3/19/2015

Land prices have been fluctuating across Japan on the heels of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and other natural disasters, pushing down prices in areas that are vulnerable to tsunami and liquefaction while driving up prices inland.

According to official land prices released on March 18, land prices for the Chiba Prefecture city of Abiko significantly dropped apparently because the area suffered damage from liquefaction in the Great East Japan Earthquake and from a major typhoon. Meanwhile, land prices for the Shizuoka Prefecture city of Fujieda spiked, after the inland area was recognized to be less vulnerable to tsunami.

Among residential areas, land prices for the Fusatorimachi district of Abiko saw the country’s largest decline rate at 10.9 percent. “I have almost no customers now. After the Great East Japan Earthquake and flooding, no one moved in here,” said a 70-year-old barber in the district.

The Fusa district, which encompasses Fusatorimachi, suffered major liquefaction damage in the March 2011 quake disaster, with about 120 residences destroyed. The disaster was followed by flooding brought by Typhoon No. 26 in October 2013. A downpour with record rainfall totaling 282 millimeters pounded areas that had already suffered extensive ground sinking in the quake disaster, flooding some 400 homes. The area is now dotted with vacant lots where damaged houses were torn down, and many of the residents who moved out of the district following the disasters have no intention of returning.

In order to cope with flood damage, a pump station with a processing capacity of 7.6 times previous levels is set to go online later this month. However, measures to prevent additional liquefaction by strengthening the ground were not implemented due to opposition from residents concerned with financial burdens.

“We used to get to sell land if we lowered the prices, but we find no buyers nowadays,” said a local realtor. An official with the city’s taxation division said, “From a long-term perspective, our revenues from fixed property taxes will plummet, adversely affecting the city’s finances.”

Meanwhile, the city of Fujieda — an inland commuter town within a 20 minute train ride from the city of Shizuoka — saw its land prices rise by 0.2 percent, thanks to an influx of the population from coastal areas susceptible to tsunami. High-rise condominiums have popped up in areas around JR Fujieda Station, while further construction work is under way. Between 2011, the year when the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the country, and February this year, the city’s population increased by at least 1,500 to some 146,500 — though the population growth had continued since before that period.

A local realtor in Fujieda, however, gives a cautious view, saying, “The demand for land may dwindle after the population inflow from coastal areas slows down.” Meanwhile, the Fujieda Municipal Government is aspiring to promote an influx of child-rearing generations into the city by developing libraries and parks near Fujieda Station.

Shipment of contaminated soil to interim storage site begins in Okuma town, fukushima minpo,

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The Environment Ministry began on March 14 transferring radioactive soil and other contaminated waste to an interim storage site in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, as part of a 30-year project to store waste generated from decontamination work following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster. About 12 cubic meters of radioactive waste was transferred from a temporary site in Okuma’s Minamidaira district on the first day. The transshipment marks the long-awaited launch of interim storage work that is considered essential for the reconstruction of Fukushima Prefecture, more than three and a half years since the government requested local authorities in August 2011 to permit installation of waste storage facilities.

Meanwhile, the ministry officially announced the same day it will start similar transportation on March 25 to an interim site in Futaba from a temporary place elsewhere in the town. This sort of transshipment over the next year will be conducted as a pilot project to identify problems such as safety. The project calls for the transfer of around 43,000 cubic meters of contaminated waste – about 1,000 cubic meters from each of 43 municipalities in the prefecture with decontamination plans – in the first year.

However, due to slow progress in negotiations with landowners, an area of only about 3 hectares of the interim storage site has so far been set aside for use, of which just 1 hectare is ready for receiving waste container bags on a temporary basis pending completion of interim storage facilities.

Path to Restoration / Tohoku farmers, fishermen face uphill road to recovery, japan news (yomiuri), 3/3/2015

At 7 a.m. in the fish market in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, fewer than 10 brokers could be seen waiting for the start of the day’s trade. The opening buzzer was heard, but they all left as no fish had been landed.

Devastated by the tsunami that followed the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the town suffered serious damage to its main industry — the fisheries business.

The Otsuchi fishing port was also severely damaged, with the ground level of its wharf having sunk due to the disaster. Repair work at the port was completed last autumn, and fishermen who lost their boats were given new ones.

However, fish catches at the market have yet to see a recovery. The number of fishermen operating in the area declined, in part because some of them lost their lives in the disaster.

But the main reason is that many fishermen who returned to the industry after the disaster now take their catch to larger ports.

“As there’re only a few brokers in Otsuchi, bid prices don’t rise in auctions,” said a 52-year-old local fisherman. He drives for an hour to take his catch to Miyako Port in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture.

As of the end of February, the total volume of catch traded in the Otsuchi fish market in fiscal 2014 was 1,575 tons — equivalent to 40 percent of the volume from fiscal 2010.

With poor hauls attracting fewer brokers for the auction, fish prices are declining further, creating a vicious circle.

In October, to increase fish hauls at the market, the Otsuchi municipal government began subsidizing fuel expenses for fishing boats delivering a catch worth more than ¥500,000.

By the end of last year, there had been adequate restoration at 93 percent of the ports in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures for fish to be landed, while the number of fishing boats back at sea reached 85 percent of those in operation before the disaster.

With the recovery under way for the operation of ports and boats, next on the agenda is how to effectively make use of the facilities.

The local pelagic fisheries cooperative association in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, began a group fishing system in 2012 to reduce costs by fishing collaboratively.

Under the system, a group of boats fish jointly for shark and tuna in nearby waters. However, due to the declining price for shark meat and rising fuel costs, the association remains in the red.

The annual deficit per boat totals ¥30 million to ¥40 million. The government covers 90 percent of the loss, but that will end in April.

To achieve further streamlining, the association has stepped up its cooperation with seafood processing firms to develop products such as shark meat nuggets.

Fisheries cooperative associations in disaster-hit areas have been grappling to find a way out of the situation, but, in reality, they have yet to fully identify a future vision and a path to their revitalization. They are approaching a crucial stage for survival.

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Across three prefectures, where a total of 20,000 hectares of agricultural land was damaged by the disaster, about 70 percent of the farmland had been restored by the end of last year and is now ready for the next step.

Following a fall in the rice price, subsidies for farming households that agree to a policy of reducing acreage for rice cultivation have also been cut, making the environment for farmers even more severe.

Under such circumstances, making extra efforts to streamline is unavoidable.

One new strategy is to expand the usable size of farmland by combining plots on existing land.

Last spring, a branch of the farmland intermediate management organization was established in each prefecture.

The organization mediates in the borrowing and lending of farmland to promote and intensify land use.

Among the three prefectures, only Iwate Prefecture is expected to exceed a goal of 2,000 hectares in total to be lent in fiscal 2014.

In Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the total land area to be lent via the organization is expected to meet only half of the goal

Land prices in Fukushima Prefecture log 1st rise in 22 years, fukushima minpo, 3/19/14

The average price of land in residential, commercial and industrial areas combined in Fukushima Prefecture as of Jan. 1 edged up 0.8% from a year before, posting an increase for the first time in 22 years, according to official land prices released by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry on March 18. The rate of rise was the fourth largest among Japan’s 47 prefectures.

Land prices in Fukushima Prefecture likely rose due to growing demand for land in the Hamadori area in the eastern part of the prefecture and urban areas stemming from such factors as residence relocation by victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and companies building new factories after a lapse of about three years since the disasters occurred.

With average land prices for the prefecture’s residential and industrial areas rising and the rate of fall in the average land price for the commercial area shrinking, the percentage of rise in the overall average for the three areas turned out to be the fourth highest, after Miyagi (3.3%), Tokyo (1.7%) and Aichi (1.2%) prefectures.

Fukushima’s average residential land price rose 1.2% for the first rise in 19 years, the third sharpest gain among all prefectures. Within the prefecture, the highest growth rate of 4.0% was recorded in Iwaki where about 23,000 residents have evacuated from other parts of the prefecture such as Futaba County.

Farmland unproductive 3 years on, yomiuri shinbun, 3/1/14

With the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake approaching, numbers do not match reality in terms of progress on reconstruction, adding to the woes of people affected.

As of late last year, official statistics released by the Reconstruction Agency and other government bodies showed significant progress especially on “town rebuilding” efforts, such as the disposal of debris and reconstructing medical institutions and schools, over the past year. In many areas where collective relocation had been in the planning stages last year, 87 percent of construction has begun on the planned projects, while 91 percent of debris disposal has been completed.

In the fishery sector, which was hit hard by the 2011 disaster, the region’s fish haul has recovered to 70 percent of predisaster levels. Sixty-three percent of farmland damaged by tsunami is said to have been restored.

Despite these figures, local people in the farming sector appear glum.

“Farmland that was filled with debris appears to have been restored over the past year, but…” Yukiyoshi Aizawa, a 63-year-old farmer, said of a plot of land in the district of Rokugo in eastern Sendai.

In fiscal 2012, the central government launched farmland restoration work in the district about 1.5 kilometers from the sea. In addition to debris disposal, work to remove salt by repeatedly pouring freshwater onto the farmland was carried out. Such efforts are supposed to help farmland return to normal.

However, soybeans Aizawa planted in June grew to 20 centimeters before the leaves turned yellow and the plants died. He planted soybeans again in July, with the same result.

In cooperation with other farmers, Aizawa planted soybeans in a nearby 45-hectare field, but they were unable to harvest any soybeans in a 30-hectare area. The concentration of salt in the soil of the farmland might have remained too high.

The percentage of farmland restored, 63 percent, has been calculated on areas of land returned to farmers. The figure does not show whether farmers were able to harvest any produce.

“We don’t have statistics on that,” an official of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said.

Similar complaints have also been heard from farmers in Iwate Prefecture.

“After the disaster, we’ve seen seawater flowing back to five kilometers in the upper stream of some rivers due to land subsidence. Even after restoration work is done, people have been unable to harvest crops on some farmland because of the lack of freshwater,” an official of the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives in Ofunato said.

Double-edged sword

The job offers-to-seekers ratios of January in three disaster-stricken prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima were higher than the national average of 1.04, meaning there were 104 job offers for every 100 job seekers.

The ratios were 1.09 in Iwate Prefecture and 1.31 in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

By prefecture, the ratio of Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures ranked seventh and that of Iwate 17th among the nation’s 47 prefectures.

According to the Miyagi Labor Bureau, the special procurement boom based on reconstruction projects favorably affected the prefecture’s ratio. In addition, emergency employment measures were conducted by the central government to create more than 20,000 jobs only in Miyagi Prefecture in fiscal 2013.

Consequently, the number of job seekers, which is the denominator in calculating the ratio, fell by 20 percent to 44,000 from the February 2011 figure, just before the March 11, 2011, disaster.

These factors boosted the job-offers-to-seekers ratio in the prefecture, the bureau said.

Similar job tendency is also seen in Iwate and Fukushima prefectures.

The figures show the unemployment problem seems to have been resolved, but new problems have also arisen—as the government’s employment measures had job seekers turning away from fisheries and other local industries.

“No matter how hard we recruit employees through Hello Work, we can’t get a sufficient number of people,” said Tadatoshi Oshima, 65, president of a marine products processing company in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture.

The firm’s new plant, which is now under construction in the city, will start operation in September. It formerly employed about 100 people, but the number decreased by half after the disaster, and it remains at that level.

No more than one person in a month receives a job interview for the firm through the Hello Work public job placement offices. It remains uncertain when the company can solve its labor shortage, he said.

In Kesennuma, construction workers are now paid about ¥10,000 a day, and those who get a job via the government’s emergency employment program—such as patrolling temporary housing units—receive about ¥8,000 a day.

The daily wages are attractive for job seekers while the fishery processing firm pays about ¥6,000, observers said.

The Kesennuma Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that while local companies are beginning to be restored, the government’s emergency employment measures have begun to choke off the local key industries.


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