Iitate village to aim for lifting of evacuation order by spring 2017

The village of Iitate, where an evacuation order is in place in the entire municipality due to the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant, is arranging to aim for the lifting of the order, except in zones where residents' return is deemed difficult, “by the spring of 2017 at the latest." To speed up preparations for residents' permanent homecoming, the village office is seeking to move administrative functions from their temporary location in the Iinomachi district of Fukushima city back to the village as soon as next spring. The evacuation order for the village was issued four years ago on April 22. The village government will work to create an environment conducive to residents' return, such as constructing village-run residential complexes and community halls, in addition to the existing task of providing support for evacuees. In March last year, the village office set March 2016 as its target for the return of residents to all areas except for the difficult-to-return-to zones. This was based on the Environment Ministry's goal of completing decontamination work around residential areas by the end of March this year. But the completion period has been extended to the first half of this year, and work to clean up farmland and roads is expected to end sometime in 2016, prompting the village government to revise its aim for the timing of residents' permanent return to their homes. The village office will discuss the matter with the central government and the village assembly as early as in June and set its new homecoming goal somewhere during a one-year period starting next spring. At this point, the local government is considering a plan to have the order lifted simultaneously for both zones where habitation is restricted and zones where preparations can be made toward lifting the evacuation order. (Translated by Kyodo News)