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Reconstruction Agency fails to implement the law

February 1, 2013


Editorial: Reconstruction Agency should do more to help Fukushima children

The Reconstruction Agency has come under fire for failing to promptly draw up and implement measures to support children in areas suffering from the crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant under lawmaker-initiated legislation enacted more than half a year ago.

The law aimed at supporting the livelihoods of children and others affected by the nuclear disaster stipulates that the executive branch of the government must extend necessary assistance to victims who are worried about their health and forced to shoulder extra burden in their lives.

Specifically, the law requires the government to conduct health examinations of victims, exempt them from paying medical bills and pay special attention to children and expecting mothers who are particularly vulnerable to radiation. The law also stipulates that victims have the right to evacuate from their neighborhoods to avoid being exposed to radiation as well as the right to return home.

The law was submitted by bipartisan lawmakers and was unanimously passed in June last year following consultations between ruling and opposition parties.

However, the law does not provide for specific measures to support the livelihoods of children and other victims of the nuclear disaster. Instead, implementation of such measures is left to the discretion of the executive branch. Some legislators have expressed concern about the law's failure to mention specific assistance measures during Diet deliberations on the bill.

The Reconstruction Agency's failure to put the principles of the law into practice is attributable to its slow response. The law clearly states that the executive branch must set a basic policy of supporting nuclear disaster victims. Nevertheless, the agency has failed to do so although more than six months has passed since the law was approved.

Agency officials argue that the delay is because they must go back to the drawing board following the transfer of power from the Democratic Party of Japan to the Liberal Democratic Party. Still, its response is too slow.

The agency intends to incorporate the direction of measures to support victims and the expansion of areas covered by such measures in its basic policy. Unless the agency determines such basic plans, ministries concerned cannot draw up specific measures that require budget appropriations. The reconstruction minister, senior vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries who have been appointed from among legislators should play a leading role in working out basic policy as soon as possible.

Citizens' organizations have already made specific requests regarding the expansion of measures to support victims. One of these groups asks that Fukushima Prefecture as a whole be covered by the measures while another insists that such assistance be extended to all residents of areas where the annual radiation dosage exceeds 1 millisievert -- the upper limit on ordinary people's radiation exposure. The agency needs to reflect the opinions of residents of disaster-hit areas in reviewing the areas covered by such assistance.

There are reports that the amount of radiation children outside government-designated evacuation zones are exposed to has been growing. This is apparently because children now go outdoors more frequently than shortly after the nuclear disaster broke out. On the other hand, a survey conducted by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry shows that a growing number of children in areas hit by the nuclear disaster are gaining weight because they have refrained from playing outdoors.

The law also stipulates that children should be given an opportunity to experience activities in a natural environment outside Fukushima Prefecture during school vacations. Such programs have already been carried out using funds set aside specifically for these activities and with cooperation from the private sector. These activities should be drastically expanded. Priority should be placed on measures to support children affected by the disaster, including assistance to families with children who have evacuated from their neighborhoods affected by the disaster.

The role that the Diet should play is also important. Frustrated by the executive branch's slow response, legislators formed a nonpartisan parliamentary league last month to support children and other disaster victims. The legislative branch should fulfill its role of monitoring the executive branch's implementation of policy measures.

February 01, 2013(Mainichi Japan)


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