Tuesday 29 November 2011

Fighting Back

It's been a bad week for Fukushima's image. First, fishing on the coast was supposed to be resumed before the end of the year but the fish is not safe and the ban's not been lifted. Then after the discovery of contaminated rice last week, high levels of caesium have been found in the rice of more farmers in the next valley. It makes a mockery of the governor's declaration last month that Fukushima rice is safe. Two tests per area had been taken but it's obvious now that such tests are simplistic. Tests need to be more detailed taking into consideration the topography, soil, rainfall etc.

Meanwhile the fruit farmers in the north have been issued with power hoses and taught how to sluice down their fruit trees. Two thousand hectares of orchards (peaches, cherries, grapes, apples, pears, nashi pears and persimmons) to be cleaned this winter.

A group of local leaders visited Chernobyl and they were shown on TV. Twenty five years on people still take their food to be checked for radiation. Koriyama's alright but the people from the 20-30 km area, for example the people from Kawauchi evacuated to Koriyama, is that what it's going to be like for them?

Even when the produce is safe, will people buy it? Will people visit? How long is the stigma going to remain? Five years? Ten years? This is what's at the back of everyone's mind.

People here are working very hard to stay cheerful and live a normal life, or rather to adapt to the new reality. And they're fighting back. Attended a rally on Sunday organised by the Chamber of Commerce. Two resolutions. The first for measures to boost the economy following the earthquake: call for the Ministry for the Recovery and WHO and IAEA research institutes to be based here, for special funding and help for businesses, and rebuilding of roads and infrastructure. The second resolution calling for an end to the nuclear accident, for Koriyama to be throughly cleaned, for a speedy decision on the permanent disposal area for radioactive waste; measures for health and children (free medical treatment for all, more monitoring of radiation, free education, more indoor play facilities) and for compensation. There was also a call for the word 'Fukushima' to be dropped from the name of the nuclear plant.

In spite of the all the bad news though you can't help admiring the way people just carry on with their daily lives.
"Eh, Eh, Oh!" and the resolutions were passed.
(I was given an orange hachimaki headband but sorry to say I didn't wear it.)

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