Is the reclassification of evacuation areas around Fukushima Daiichi encouraging reconstruction or discrimination

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In December last year, the Japanese prime minister announced that the Fukushima Daiichi plant had reached a state of “cold shutdown”, but did not clearly say when residents can return.

The Japanese government’s efforts to reclassify evacuation areas around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant under a new zoning system for decontamination and financial compensation have been significantly delayed as residents in the affected regions continue to demand “fair” compensation.

Under the reclassification that the government had earlier planned to implement on April 1, municipalities falling within the evacuation zones near the damaged nuclear plant would be divided into three new zones based on radiation levels.

Financial compensation for emotional distress for residents is proposed as follows:

  • a lump sum of 6 million yen per person for residents living in zones where return is restricted for a minimum of at least five years,
  • a lump sum of 2.4 million yen per person for residents in zones where return is expected to be possible in several years, and
  • 100,000 yen per person per month for residents in zones currently being prepared for the lifting of evacuation orders.
  • Compensation for land and homes would also vary by zones under the proposed scheme.

In the prefectural town of Tomioka, officials have resisted the reclassification, stating that as long as villagers are not offered equal compensation across the board, the town will not accept the scheme.

“With the current lack of progress in decontamination and rebuilding infrastructure, many residents will not be able to return even after the reclassification takes place, and living conditions will not change,” says Tomio Midorikawa, chief of the Tomioka Municipal Government’s consumer and environmental protection division. “Given that, it is ridiculous to judge the impact of damage through radiation levels alone, differentiating between sets of residents who were forced to evacuate.”

“When we think about the conditions of financial compensation, it is difficult to accept the reclassification,” said an official with the municipal government’s headquarters for disaster control. “Is true reconstruction possible when only residents whose homes are in low-radiation areas return?”

Ryoichi Murai, a 61-year-old Tomioka resident, who is taking shelter in the prefectural city of Iwaki and participated in the signature campaign, urges the central government not to discriminate against residents.

“If evacuees from the same town are subjected to varying amounts of financial compensation, a sense of unfairness will grow between them,” Murai says. “I don’t want us to be discriminated against via this compensation system.”

Some examples of discrimination began surfacing not long after the March 11 quake.

There have been multiple reports that people who were residing within the proximity of Fukushima nuclear plant before the Tsunami and the nuclear melt down are being treated like social outcasts by the other Japanese. They were even rejected at evacuation centers because the population believes they have become contaminated and potentially dangerous to other human beings.

Quite a number of survivors of the March 11 disaster are living in temporary shelters, mostly prefabricated houses.

The government of the city of Tsukuba, just northeast of Tokyo, was forced to apologize after forcing Fukushima area refugees who had sought shelter to obtain “radiation-free” certificates or undergo screening.

The Mayor of Minamisoma has also been warned of such discrimination admitting, “I was told by a mother with some children that when they went to a different area of Japan, they were warned by other children: ‘You are contaminated don’t come near me.’

The Fukushima Bar Association says evacuees and their children have been victimised and petrol stations have denied access to cars with Fukushima plates.  “Discrimination to the Fukushima people is based on misunderstandings and prejudice, and it is an extremely serious violation of human rights,” association chairman Akihiro Sugano said.

Japanese authorities have admitted that lax standards and poor oversight contributed to the nuclear disaster.  They have come under fire for their handling of the emergency, and have engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the accident.

Authorities want to “limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry”. There has been public anger about an “official campaign to play down the scope of the accident and the potential health risks”.

In the midst of such unrest, it is extremely distressing to face discriminatory treatment, regardless of if stemming from where you have been, or where you are going.

Source: Mainichi


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