Friday 25 October 2013

When Home's not so Sweet

Post-Fukushima, life here in the city of Koriyama is back to normal. We get blow-by-blow accounts on TV of leaking contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi (only 60 km away) which makes you angry but, generally speaking, people here don't seem so nervous these days. The schools have lifted restrictions on how long kids can play outside. People seem to be buying Fukushima produce - new season rice and wonderful fruit. 

But what of those who've been evacuated? Nearly 30,000 people in Fukushima prefecture face their third winter in temporary housing. Kasetsu - it's a new word, written in katakana カセツ - and refers to the flimsy barrack style prefabs designed to last for two years but extended to five. Nearly 54,000 more people live in rented accommodation paid for by the prefecture and there are 1,200 in council housing. All are waiting, still waiting, for new flats and houses to be built. A few hundred have been built but things aren't going according to plan. For example, there's a patch of land in Koriyama earmarked for building. Construction was supposed to start last month for completion next March but there were no bids when the work was put out to tender. This is a story being repeated all over Tohoku. The price of materials has risen 20% and there's a labour shortage so construction companies can't do the work at the price offered by local authorities. One bloke was telling me he used to be able to book a crane a few days ahead, now one needs to be booked weeks in advance. People up here have mixed feelings about the Olympics. They're worried that Olympic projects will make shortages even more acute and delay construction further.

And what of the future? Will people go back? Even in Kawauchi, where the ban in the 20 to 30 km zone was lifted as early as March 2012 and the mayor has done everything right - attracting new businesses and building an old people's home and a clinic - only 20% of the population have returned to live full-time. Likewise in Hirono, south of Tomioka, many people are still reluctant to return. Now the government wants to lift the ban in Miyakoji in Tamura city (coloured green on the map below) so that those who want to can go back. But these are not easy decisions for people to make. Even if the house is decontaminated and levels low, levels in the woods or fields around may be high. Old people may go back but not young families. Can they cope? Can they afford to renovate or rebuild their houses? Where do they go to work or to do their shopping? The coastal area, where they used to go, is out of bounds. Decontamination proper has started in the exclusion zone but who wants to go back to an area over-run by wild boars and rats? As a friend reported in the Mainichi yesterday, it's not a case of 'going home'; the place they knew is no longer there. More a case of daring to venture into new territory. The evacuees have been kept in limbo too long. They need to be told either that they'll never be able to go back, or highly organised plans need to be put in place to support repatriation in those areas on the periphery.
Map in English of current zones

Heavy rain all day today. Typhoon No 27. Tepco workers making more preparations: there were too many spills during the last typhoon. This spate of typhoons is said to be caused by rising sea temperatures due to global warming ...

1 comment:

  1. How are you today? It seems that there was another earthquake there this morning, but we are getting very little reporting on it here the US. The implications of an earthquake to the damaged Fukushima plant could be quite dangerous. Has the area sustained damage? I hope you are safe!