10 YEARS SINCE DISASTER: Half of residents in municipalities with evacuation zones see recovery slow

Two separate opinion polls conducted by Fukushima-Minpo Co. show that about half of the respondents think reconstruction from the 2011 earthquake and nuclear accident has not made headway in 12 cities, towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture where evacuation zones and other restrictions were imposed. They are eight municipalities in Futaba-gun (county) region, the cities of Minamisoma and Tamura, Kawamata town, and Iitate village One of the polls, an awareness survey based on interviews, covered residents in the Futaba municipalities, including two towns hosting Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The other survey by telephone interview covered residents in other municipalities across the prefecture. Both polls were conducted ahead of the 10th anniversary of the disaster on March 11. The survey of residents in the eight Futaba municipalities -- the towns of Namie, Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka, Naraha and Hirono, and the villages of Kawauchi and Katsurao -- found a majority, 54.1%, believe post-disaster recovery has not made progress in the 12 municipalities. As for the largest problem standing in the way to reconstruction, the greatest proportion -- 32.1% -- cited "return of evacuees," bringing home the fact that the prolonged evacuation forced by the nuclear crisis has had a serious effect on residents living away from their hometowns. Of the respondents, 38.0% saw "little progress" and 16.1% "no progress" for a total of 54.1% on the negative side. On the other hand, 28.5% said reconstruction is “generally in progress" and 5.9% saw it "in progress," bringing the proportion on the positive side to 34.4%. Meanwhile, 11.5% said they "don't know." One reason for "no progress," according to a male Namie resident in his 60s, is that "there will be no reconstruction without the complete decommissioning" of the crippled Fukushima plant. Another male Namie resident, in his 30s, saw "little progress" because "difficult-to-return zones remain in place." A male Okuma resident in his 30s said reconstruction is "generally in progress" because roads, expressways and other infrastructure facilities have been restored while a female Kawauchi resident in her 30s who gave the same reply cited "residents coming back" and "events underway." Asked to cite the greatest challenging issue for reconstruction, the "return of evacuees" was singled out by 32.1%. That was followed by "decommissioning work on the Fukushima Daiichi plant, including disposal of treated wastewater," which was mentioned by 26.6%. Next came the "termination of difficult-to-return zones" (16.4%), followed by "permanent disposal of waste stemming from decontamination work" (10.5%), the "establishment of roads, embankments and other social infrastructure" (3.6%), and the "elimination of reputational damage to prefectural products" (2.0%). "Others" was 5.6% and "I don't know" 3.3%. ■49.5% outside Futaba don't see progress According to the telephone survey covering residents outside the Futaba region, 49.5% of respondents saw reconstruction not in progress in the 12 municipalities. The percentage broke down to 39.3% who saw "little progress" and 10.2% who said "no progress." Meanwhile, 29.5% said recovery is "generally in progress" and 7.9% "in progress," with 13.1% choosing "I don't know." As for the greatest challenge for reconstruction, more than a half -- 52.9% -- cited "decommissioning work on the Fukushima Daiichi plant, including disposal of treated wastewater" while the "return of evacuees" was mentioned by 11.5%, "permanent disposal of waste stemming from decontamination work" by 7.5%, "elimination of reputational damage to prefectural products" by 6.8%, "termination of difficult-to-return zones" by 5.7%, "establishment of roads, embankments and other social infrastructure" by 4.0%. "Others" was 4.1% and "I don't know" 7.5%. Although a simple comparison cannot be made between the two polls because their survey methods were different, a perception gap was noticed regarding issues to be resolved for reconstruction between residents in the eight Futaba municipalities and those outside the region. Futaba residents see the return of evacuees to their hometowns as the greatest challenge for reconstruction while those outside Futaba regard decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi plant as a top priority. (Translated by Kyodo News)

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