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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

What happened to reconstruction funds?

October 2, 2012


Disaster reconstruction funds ending up in the wrong hands, slowing work





Suspicions have arisen that ¥17 trillion reserved for postdisaster reconstruction work in the fiscal 2012 budget has been spent on projects that have little to do with rebuilding the Tohoku region.


Some of the rebuilding funds have been spent outside Tohoku's disaster zones to build roads and quake-proof tax office buildings. Even a project by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency to research nuclear fusion received ¥4.2 billion.

In a third supplementary budget for fiscal 2011, ¥500 billion was earmarked for a postdisaster reconstruction support fund to finance companies setting up factories, but the subsidies were also provided to businesses that built plants outside the afflicted areas.

"To be honest, I cannot approve the way (some of the funds) have been used," reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano told a recent news conference.

The budget should be spent on projects that directly contribute to the reconstruction of Tohoku, Hirano said, adding the use of the funds will be reviewed strictly while compiling the fiscal 2013 budget.

With others in the government voicing similar concerns, the Finance Ministry has started reviewing the criteria used to funnel subsidies into reconstruction programs, government sources said.

Senior Vice Finance Minister Yukihisa Fujita said budget appropriations for projects in prefectures little affected by the disasters will be put on hold to boost reconstruction efforts.

In the three prefectures hit hardest by the March 2011 disasters, about 80 percent of the debris and rubble left by the tsunami has yet to be disposed of in Iwate and Miyagi. In Fukushima Prefecture, work has just started on decontaminating areas affected by fallout from the Fukushima No. 1 plant's crippled reactors.

Evacuees staying away


FUKUSHIMA — Many who evacuated areas 20 to 30 km from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have yet to return home, including in locations where the central government lifted its emergency evacuation preparation advisory more than a year ago.

The government in April 2011 designated parts of the municipalities of Minamisoma, Tamura, Naraha and Kawauchi, as well as the whole of Hirono, in Fukushima Prefecture as areas where residents should be on standby to evacuate depending on radiation levels.

As a result, many people left these areas, located just outside the initial 20-km no-go zone set up around the station after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused three catastrophic core meltdowns.

Though the advisory was lifted Sept. 30 last year, about half of the 59,000 residents remain reluctant to return to the affected areas because of radiation fears.

Work to decontaminate houses is under way in Hirono and Kawauchi but has yet to start on a full scale in Tamura and Minamisoma due to the difficulty of finding facilities to temporarily store contaminated soil.

The slow reconstruction of local infrastructure also has discouraged locals from returning. Going back to communities located extremely near the plant is even more arduous, as many shops and hospitals remain closed.

Of the total 22 elementary and junior high schools that were shut down after the advisory was issued, 16 have resumed classes in their original facilities. But the number of students is far smaller than before.

To make it easier for residents to return home, the municipal governments of Hirono and Kawauchi moved their head offices back to the municipalities after having to temporarily relocate them elsewhere.

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