6 Mars 2016
March 6, 2016
By SATOSHI KIMURA/ Staff Writer
In a new survey, 19 of the 42 mayors in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, or 45 percent, said that recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident will take longer than predicted three years ago.
The Asahi Shimbun survey also shows that the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is continuing to hamper recovery efforts in Fukushima Prefecture, compared with the other two prefectures.
As for 15 mayors in Fukushima Prefecture, nine, or 60 percent, said that their projected completion period of recovery will be in fiscal 2023 or later, according to the survey.
In contrast, almost all the mayors in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures said the recovery process will be completed by the end of fiscal 2022.
The survey is the fourth of its kind since The Asahi Shimbun started it in 2013. The 42 mayors were chosen as their municipalities were located in coastal areas damaged by the tsunami or ordered to evacuate due to the nuclear accident.
The Asahi Shimbun surveyed the mayors in writing and in interviews. As for the recovery completion period, they were asked to choose from “fiscal 2015,” “fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2017,” “fiscal 2018 to fiscal 2022” and “in fiscal 2023 or later.”
Two of the 15 mayors in Fukushima Prefecture chose “fiscal 2015” in the survey held in 2013 but selected “in fiscal 2023 or later” in the latest survey. In addition to the two, five other mayors gave the same response in the latest survey although they had projected an earlier completion of the recovery process.
The 15 mayors were also asked about factors obstructing the recovery. They were allowed to list up to three. Fourteen cited having to deal with the nuclear accident.
“It is realistic to think that recovery will take 20 or 30 years even if the evacuation order is lifted,” said Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba. All the residents of Namie are currently living outside the town due to the evacuation order.
“The challenge is what we should do to maintain our town,” he added.
“Residents in my village cannot plan their future,” said Katsurao Mayor Masahide Matsumoto. All the residents in Katsurao have also evacuated the village.
“I want the central government to present its policies as early as possible on what to do with the (high radiation) 'difficult-to-return' zones,” Matsumoto added.
Of the 27 mayors in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, 26 replied that the recovery will be completed by the end of fiscal 2022. The figure shows the seriousness of the delay of recovery efforts in Fukushima Prefecture.
As a factor that is obstructing their recovery, nine mayors in Miyagi Prefecture cited a “shortage of staff members for their municipal governments.” Meanwhile, in Iwate Prefecture, seven mayors cited a “shortage of businesses and workers,” but six chose a "shortage of staff members for their municipal governments."
According to the internal affairs ministry, 39 municipalities of the three prefectures were demanding additional staff members as of January this year. The number of insufficient staff members stood at 196 in total.