2018: "Save the Town"

Fukushima  11.3.2011  -  11.3.2018
Mit freundlicher Erlaubsnis von Japan Focus
The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 16 | Issue 3 | Number 2 | Jan 31, 2018

“Save the Town”: Insolvable Dilemmas of Fukushima’s “Return Policy”
“町残し”: 福島帰還政策の解決不可能なジレンマ

Namie Mayor Baba Tamotsu interviewed by Katsuya Hirano with Yoshihiro Amaya and Yoh Kawano at Namie town hall,
July 4th, 2017.

Introduction by Katsuya Hirano, Transcription and translation by Akiko Anson

The town of Namie is the largest in both area and population among eight towns and villages within Futaba Country in Fukushima Prefecture. At the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 that precipitated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster, the town’s population was 18,464.1 Although Namie is located just 11.2 km from the nuclear power plants, it took four days from the explosion of the power plants before Tokyo issued an evacuation order. The government’s belated order was consonant with its decision to withhold information on radiation levels provided by SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information) in order to avoid “public panic.” Consequently, many residents of Namie as well as other neighboring villages and towns were exposed to high radiation. On April 15 2012, the town of Namie asked the Japanese government to provide free heath care for its residents, including regular medical check-ups to monitor the internal radiation exposure and thyroid examinations. The evacuated government of Namie obtained a monitoring device and installed it in temporary housing in Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima where many evacuees were relocated. On April 1, 2017, the central government lifted one set of restrictions on one zone—areas in which people were permitted to enter freely but were not allowed to stay overnight—and another on a second zone—where access was limited to short visits — based on its judgment that decontamination work had successfully removed radioactive contaminants from the areas. Since the termination of the evacuation order, the government has been encouraging residents to return to those areas although only 1-2% of the residents, mostly senior citizens, have returned so far and a recent poll indicates that less than a quarter of the population intends to return in the future. In this regard, Namie is no different from other towns and villages in that the so-called return policy remains a de facto failure and the former residents simply do not trust or refuse to follow the central government’s “reconstruction” programs. At the same time, local governments have been thrown into extremely difficult situations where they have no choice but to go along with the “return policy.”

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