Fukushima’s “reconstruction” is a long way from people’s peace and safety

[Original Published:Renewal as of March 12, 2016 by Hiroshi Taniyama, JVC’s President]

Five years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Decontamination and other arrangements towards reconstruction have been making progress in Minami-soma, where we have been providing assistance since April, five years ago. Last month, the City of Fukushima announced its policy that they would lift the ban on living in the area of Odaka, located within the range of 20km from the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

At first, the reconstruction looks to be progressing satisfactorily. However, the division among the people of Fukushima, which was caused by the nuclear power plant’s accident, is considered as a wound in the society and the people’s mind, and it has not yet been healed. On the contrary, the division is getting even more widened than before. With regard to “reconstruction” reportedly having progressed and “safety” defined by the government, the conflict and confrontation are re-emerging in more complicated forms among the people who like to stay in the area where they have lived for a long time, those who like to evacuate there, and those who like to return there. As to lifting the ban on living in the area of Odaka of Minami-soma, the opinion was divided between the people who like to lift it earlier and those who like to uphold it because of it being too early.

In reality, this division has been most probably caused by the policy.

In July, 2012, “Nuclear Accident Child Victim’s Support Law” was enacted by legislation at the instance of House members of all the parties. This is epoch- making, because, with regard to the people who suffered from the accident of the nuclear power plant, the right to make their decision by themselves was widely respected and they are not discriminated in public support. This is the law which could be realized by the request of citizens—with the victims from the accident of the nuclear power plant playing a central role. But, according to the basic policy decided at the cabinet in August, 2013, the spirit of the law was mutilated by restricting the areas eligible for assistance. And, due to its revision in August, last year, the housing assistance for the voluntarily evacuated people will be discontinued at the end of March, 2017. The evacuation order will be lifted for the areas other than the area where return is difficult by the end of March, 2017, and the compensation will be cut off at the end of March, 2018. There is no other way of saying that the evacuees are being politically forced to return.

Most of the voluntarily evacuated people were among the younger generation and were required to make their final decision in order to protect the health of their children. They had left their homes, mostly leaving their aged parents and relatives behind at home. By “the Support Law”, the sufferers were allowed to widely choose the way of living after the accident of the nuclear power plant, and accordingly it intended to remove the discrimination on policy and the barrier in mind among the people who made different choices. It is doing nothing more than accelerating the division through the revision of “the Support Law” and the propaganda of “reconstruction” and “safety”.

I wish that Fukushima would progress in reconstruction and that its people can get back their homes. The policy must not result in dividing people. We have been seeing the reality at the local scenes of conflicts in the world and those of development in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa for 35 years. It is the reality that the state government, the foreign aid, and the intervention of foreign armies divided the local society and accordingly fostered the seeds of conflicts and intensified the conflicts that already existed. On the contrary, it is possible to foster the trust among the confronting people, and to make peace through collaboration with each other. Now when I see the fifth year come round in commemoration of the Great East Japan Earthquake, I like to reconfirm my determination to attend to the people of Fukushima closely and check the policies of the government.

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