‘We were driven out’: Fukushima’s radioactive legacy

MBBHR4RGHMI6TNNUDUMN7N5QQQ.jpg
In March 2017, the government lifted its evacuation order for the center of Namie.
“This is the worst time, the most painful period.” For the people of Namie and other towns near the Fukushima plant, the pain is sharpened by the way the Japanese government is trying to move beyond the tragedy, to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a symbol of hope and recovery, a sign that life can return to normal after a disaster of this magnitude.
If we give up, we would lose our town, and as mayor, I will work with all my heart to prevent that.” But many residents say the central government is being heavy-handed in its attempts to persuade people to return, failing to support residents’ efforts to build new communities in places like Nihonmatsu, and then ending compensation payments within a year of evacuation orders being lifted.
In other towns around the nuclear plant, people have complained that arbitrarily decided compensation payouts — more for people deemed to have been in radiation-affected zones, far less for tsunami victims, nothing for people just a mile outside the zone most affected — have divided communities and caused resentment and friction.
“This is a place desperate to attract people to return, but this reduces our attractiveness for young people,” said Riken Komatsu in the fishing port of Onahama, who is working to rebuild a sense of community and raise awareness about problems with the reconstruction effort.
The biggest tragedy now is the high rate of suicides.” Kazuhiro Yoshida, the embattled mayor of Namie, said fears about radiation are not the only reason people aren’t returning; many complain the deserted town lacks amenities.
“The scale of the problem is clearly not something the government wants to communicate to the Japanese people, and that’s driving the whole issue of the return of evacuees,” said Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace.
It says radiation levels in parts of Namie where evacuation orders have been lifted will remain well above international maximum safety recommendations for many decades, raising the risks of leukemia and other cancers to “unjustifiable levels,” especially for children.
In the rural areas around the town, radiation levels are much higher and could remain unsafe for people beyond the end of this century, Greenpeace concluded in a 2018 report. Greenpeace has been taking thousands of radiation readings for years in the towns around the Fukushima nuclear plant.
“The idea that an industrial accident closes off an area of Japan, with its limited habitable land, for generations and longer — that would just remind the public why they are right to be opposed to nuclear power.”
Four-fifths of Namie’s geographical area is mountain and forest, impossible to decontaminate, still deemed unsafe to return.
When it rains, the radioactive cesium in the mountains flows into rivers and underground water sources close to the town.
Komatsu says reconstruction has been imposed from above, a problem he says reflects, in a broader sense, what Japan is like.
Today, Namie’s former residents are scattered across all but one of Japan’s 47 prefectures.
“For the past eight years, we have seen the destruction of the area, the destruction of the community, and it will be difficult to bring people back,” he said.
With young people moving away, the elderly, who already feel the loss of Namie most acutely, find themselves even more alone.
Now, the damage is more severe because young people are not returning. The elderly who come back feel pessimism and depression.
Six Olympic softball games and a baseball game will be staged in Fukushima, the prefecture’s bustling and radiation-free capital city, and the Olympic torch relay will start from here.

Japan’s government refuses UN call to stop returning evacuees to irradiated areas of Fukushima

28166519_10208898024207781_3658257684894728953_n.jpg

Japan rejects UN call to stop returns to Fukushima

 
Japan’s government lifted its standard for the acceptable level of radiation to 20 millisieverts per year from 1 millisievert after the Fukushima disaster
 
27 Oct 2018
Japan’s government on Friday (Oct 26) rejected calls from a UN rights expert to halt the return of women and children to areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster over radiation fears.
UN special rapporteur Baskut Tuncak on Thursday warned that people felt they were “being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the government previously considered safe.”
In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s government lifted its standard for the acceptable level of radiation to 20 millisieverts per year from 1 millisievert.
It has been urged to revise that level back down again, but has rejected calls to do so, a decision Tuncak called “deeply troubling.”
“Japan has a duty to prevent and minimise childhood exposure to radiation,” he said.
But Japan’s government rejected the criticism, saying Tuncak’s comments were based on “one-sided information and could fan unnecessary fears about Fukushima,” a foreign ministry official told AFP.
Japan’s government has gradually lifted evacuation orders on large parts of the areas affected by the disaster, which occurred when a massive tsunami sent reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant into meltdown in March 2011.
But other areas remain under evacuation orders because of continued high levels of radiation.
Japan’s government has pushed hard to return affected areas to normal, but has faced criticism that what it refers to as “safe” radiation levels are not in line with international standards.
Around 12,000 people who fled their homes for fear of radiation have filed dozens of lawsuits against the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the stricken nuclear plant.
The Fukushima disaster was the worst since Chernobyl in 1986, though there has only been one death linked to it. More than 18,000 people were killed or left missing in the tsunami that prompted the meltdown.

Stop forcing the return of women and child evacuees to radioactive parts of Fukushima – UN’s call to Japan

Cathy Iwane:
3 Things:
1. International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) has ALWAYS recommended 1 mSv per year to be ‘safe’ for human living conditions.
2. Japan arbitrarily INCREASED this level 20 TIMES to 20 mSv per year AFTER Fukushima Daiichi blew. Science proves this level DANGEROUS for women & children; thus, the UN calling out this human rights abuse.
3. Japan is funding billions of dollars for 2020 Olympic venues & athletes’ housing in Fukushima; BUT ending support for Fukushima évacuées, forcing many to return to dangerous radiation exposure.
 
 
jlmùù.jpg
Students from Fukushima High School ride a bus and are told by Tokyo Electric Power Co. executive Yoshiyuki Ishizaki, right, about the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant’s No. 1 reactor, which just had a cover removed from its building, in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Nov. 18, 2016.

Stop sending women & children back to Fukushima fallout zone, UN expert tells Japan

26 Oct, 2018
A UN human rights expert has urged Japan to reconsider its policy of returning women and children to areas still high in radiation after they were displaced by the Fukushima meltdown.
Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on hazardous substances, criticized the Japanese government’s decision to resettle citizens in areas with radiation levels above one millisievert per year, the threshold of health risk to groups particularly sensitive to radiation, including children and women of childbearing age.
“The gradual lifting of evacuation orders has created enormous strains on people whose lives have already been affected by the worst nuclear disaster of this century,” he said.
Tuncak presented his findings to a General Assembly committee meeting in New York. “Many feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the government previously considered safe,” he added in a news release.
The Japanese government dismissed his concerns, blaming one-sided information and expressing concern that the statement could stoke “unnecessary fears” about the site of the March 2011 nuclear disaster.
After the earthquake and subsequent power plant meltdown, the Japanese government raised its acceptable radiation levels to 20 millisieverts. The UN last year issued a recommendation to return the level to pre-meltdown standards, but Japan ignored the request.
Over seven years later, radiation levels around Fukushima remain high, as has the apparent level of denial within the Japanese government. They recently announced plans to release about a million tons of wastewater contaminated with radioactive elements into the Pacific Ocean, claiming high-tech processing had reduced the contaminants to safe levels, but was forced to admit that 80 percent of the water remained contaminated after local residents protested the dumping plans.
The government has been removing evacuation orders gradually and plans to repeal all of them within five years, regardless of the contamination level in the areas. Japan was slow to enact the evacuation orders initially – only residents within a 3km radius of the meltdown were told to evacuate immediately after the accident, and four days later, residents 30km away were still being told to shelter in place. However, it was already allowing resettlement in areas within 20km of the plant by 2014.
Tuncak has clashed with the Japanese government before. In August, he and two other UN human rights experts criticized them for putting at risk the lives of those involved in the Fukushima clean-up. An earlier UN report showed that 167 plant workers had received radiation doses that increased their cancer risk.
Only last month did the Japanese government admit that even a single plant worker had died as a result of radiation exposure. The unnamed man, whose job included measuring radiation levels immediately after the meltdown, was exposed to about 195 millisieverts of radiation and developed lung cancer after leaving his job in 2015.
 

UN envoy: Halt children’s return to Fukushima

October 26, 2018
A UN envoy has urged Japan to halt the return of children and young women to nuclear accident-hit Fukushima, calling the government’s radiation exposure limit too lax. But the Japanese side is refuting the advice.
Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur Baskut Tuncak on Thursday was speaking to a committee of the UN General Assembly.
The government set the exposure limit at 20 milisieverts per year as a condition for lifting evacuation orders issued for parts of the prefecture after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident.
Tuncak criticized the government for not taking into account the council’s recommendation that the limit be one milisievert.
A Japanese delegate countered by saying the limit is based on a 2007 recommendation by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
He also said the government has been consulting Japanese experts on the matter, and that Tuncak’s reports give Fukushima a negative reputation.
But Tuncak said the experts recommend that the annual limit be one milisievert in normal times. He added that risk remains as long as radiation levels exceed this threshold.
Tuncak urged Japan to apply the principle to children and women of reproductive age.

UN rights expert urges Japan to halt returns to Fukushima

October 26, 2018
GENEVA (Kyodo) — The Japanese government must halt the return of women and children displaced by the March 2011 nuclear disaster back to areas of Fukushima where radiation levels remain high, a U.N. human rights expert said Thursday.
The special rapporteur on hazardous substances, Baskut Tuncak, also criticized in his statement the government’s gradual removal of evacuation orders for most of the irradiated areas as well as its plan to lift all orders within the next five years, even for the most contaminated areas.
“The gradual lifting of evacuation orders has created enormous strains on people whose lives have already been affected by the worst nuclear disaster of this century. Many feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe,” he said.
An official of Japan’s permanent mission to the international organizations in Geneva refuted the statement, saying it is based on extremely one-sided information and could fan unnecessary fears about Fukushima.
Tuncak expressed concerns about people returning to areas with radiation above 1 millisievert per year, a level previously observed by Japan as an annual limit so as to prevent risks to the health of vulnerable people, especially children and women of reproductive age.
“It is disappointing to see Japan appear to all but ignore the 2017 recommendation of the U.N. human rights monitoring mechanism to return back to what it considered an acceptable dose of radiation before the nuclear disaster,” he said.
In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear incident, the Japanese government heightened the annually acceptable level of radiation to 20 millisieverts, raising concerns for the health of residents.
In August, Tuncak and two other U.N. human rights experts jointly criticized the Japanese government for allegedly exploiting and putting at risk the lives of “tens of thousands” of people engaged in cleanup operations at and around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, a claim Tokyo dismissed.

Japan must halt returns to Fukushima, radiation remains a concern, says UN rights expert

UN reproach oct 26 2018
GENEVA (25 October 2018) – A UN human rights expert has urged the Japanese Government to halt the ongoing relocation of evacuees who are children and women of reproductive age to areas of Fukushima where radiation levels remain higher than what was considered safe or healthy before the nuclear disaster seven years ago.
The UN Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, will present a report to the General Assembly in New York today, highlighting key cases of victims of toxic pollution brought to his attention in recent years that demand global action. The expert said the Japanese Government’s decision to raise by 20 times what it considered to be an acceptable level of radiation exposure was deeply troubling, highlighting in particular the potentially grave impact of excessive radiation on the health and wellbeing of children. 
“It is disappointing to see Japan appear to all but ignore the 2017 recommendation of the UN human rights monitoring mechanism (UPR) to return back to what it considered an acceptable dose of radiation before the nuclear disaster,” he said.
Following the nuclear disaster in 2011, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami, Japan raised the acceptable level of radiation for residents in Fukushima from 1 mSv/year to 20 mSv/year. The recommendation to lower acceptable levels of exposure to back to 1 mSv/yr was proposed by the Government of Germany and the Government of Japan ‘accepted to follow up’ on it, according to the UN database.  However, in the expert’s view, the recommendation is not being implemented.
Japan has a duty to prevent and minimise childhood exposure to radiation, added the UN expert referring to his 2016 report on childhood exposure to toxics. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Japan is a Party, contains a clear obligation on States to respect, protect and fulfil the right of the child to life, to maximum development and to the highest attainable standard of health, taking their best interests into account. This, the expert said, requires State parties such as Japan to prevent and minimise avoidable exposure to radiation and other hazardous substances.
The Special Rapporteur said Japan should provide full details as to how its policy decisions in relation to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, including the lifting of evacuation orders and the setting of radiation limits at 20mSv/y, are not in contravention of the guiding principles of the Convention, including the best interests of the chid.
Tuncak has expressed his concerns at the Human Rights Council in recent years, accompanied by explicit requests and pleas by concerned organisations for the Government to invite the mandate to conduct an official visit. The Japanese Government has a standing invitation to all mandate holders but has not to date invited the mandate on hazardous substances and wastes to conduct an official country visit.
Seven years after the nuclear disaster, actions for the reconstruction and revitalisation of Fukushima are in full implementation process, with evacuation orders lifted for most of the areas, and with plans in place for lifting evacuation orders in even the highest contaminated areas during the next five years. In March 2017 housing subsidies reportedly stopped to be provided to self-evacuees, who fled from areas other than the government-designated evacuation zones.
“The combination of the Government’s decision to lift evacuation orders and the prefectural authorities’ decision to cease the provision of housing subsidies, places a large number of self-evacuees under immense pressure to return,” Tuncak said. 
“The gradual lifting of evacuation orders has created enormous strains on people whose lives have already been affected by the worst nuclear disaster of this century. Many feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the Government previously considered safe.”
ENDS
The presentation of the thematic report at the General Assembly today will be live-streamed on the United Nations Web TV. 
Mr. Baskut Tuncak is Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes. As a Special Rapporteur, he is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
For more information and media requests, please contact: Ms Lilit Nikoghosyan (+41 22 9179936 / lnikoghosyan@ohchr.org) or Mr. Alvin Gachie (+41 22 917 997 1/ agachie@ohchr.org) or write to srtoxics@ohchr.org
For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)
This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org

Six years after Fukushima – women and children still suffer most

The Japanese government is trying to get back to normality after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but the crisis is far from over for women and children, says Greenpeace. Thousands of mothers have sued the authorities.

37872497_303
Six years ago, the triple disaster – earthquake, tsunami and meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant – took the lives of almost 20,000 people and displaced more than 160,000 people from their homes. More than 80,000 people are still living in temporary accommodation.

The disaster had an enormous impact on all members of the affected communities, but to this day it is women and children who “have borne the brunt of human rights violations resulting from it,” according to a report by Greenpeace.

While some injustices faced by women and children were caused by policy failures in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, other women’s and children’s rights violations are a direct result of the current government’s plans to resettle residents to “heavily contaminated ares in Fukushima,” says Greenpeace.

In an effort to get back to normality as quickly as possible, the Japanese government is set to lift evacuation orders at the end of March and allow evacuated residents to return to areas close to the Fukushima power plant.

37864007_401Employees clean an elementary school in Fukushima. It’s scheduled to re-open in April.

 

Greenpeace warned, however, that radiation levels are still dangerously high and called on the government not to “pressure” residents to return to their contaminated homes, under threat of losing financial support. A year after an area is declared safe, the government will stop paying compensation to evacuees. 

In March, Japan will also cut housing support for people who decided to move out although they were not under a government evacuation order.

“Cutting off housing support for self-evacuees threatens more than 10,000 households, potentially forcing many people back to contaminated areas against their will,” says Kendra Ulrich, Global Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Japan. Ending compensation payments “even though radiation levels far exceed the long-term targets in many areas […] amounts to economic coercion and is a deliberate violation of the law and survivors’ human rights.”

“Atomic divorce” 

The resettlement plans create a dilemma for those who refuse to go back to their former homes but are dependent on financial support, especially single mums. After the disaster, a lot of women separated from or even divorced their husbands, who chose to stay in contaminated regions because of their work, and evacuated with their children.

There are no official numbers on how many families split as a result of the disaster. But the phenomenon is common enough to have a name, “genpatsu rikon” – literally meaning “atomic divorce”.

37871613_401These mothers evacuated with their children from Fukushima prefecture.

 

Mothers are now faced with the choice between losing housing support or moving back to unsafe areas. In order to speed up the return of evacuees, the government decontaminated corridors and islands instead of entire areas, effectivley creating “an invisible, open-air prison for citizens to return to,” says Greenpeace. 

Decontaminated zones often consist of 20 meter strips along roads, around houses and agricultural fields. This poses a health threat as the returnees would be surrounded by contamination.

Mothers are worried about their health and the development of their children. Noriko Kubota, a professor of clinical psychology at Iwaki Meisei University, believes that living in “safe zones” could have a long-lasting negative impact on kids.

“If children need to stay inside and cannot run around outside freely, that would impact their psychological development, more specifically their skills of interacting with each other and controlling their emotions among others,” Kubota told DW.

Mothers sue government

Women are, however, not only silent victims in this disaster. Thousands of mothers have together filed lawsuits against the Japanese government to fight for the continuation of housing support and fair compensation. They also demand accountability for the disaster from the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the company running the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

37868371_401Ms Horie is sueing the government for fair compensation.

 

“I never imagined becoming a plaintiff myself. I’m going to court now for my children and for the next generation,” Ms Horie told Greenpeace. She moved with her children from Fukushima to Kyoto, where she filed a class action suit together with other mums. “Back then, they said on TV that the accident wouldn’t affect our health immediately, but it might affect my kids in the future. That’s why I decided to evacuate.”

Women who left contaminated areas have been “labeled as neurotic or irrational,” says Greenpeace. Their concerns were dismissed both by their partners and the government. The lawsuit is not only about financial compensation but also for moral satisfaction.

“I want to stand in court, knowing that I am right to evacuate my child,” says Ms Sonoda, who moved with her child from Fukushima to England. “We are right.”

http://www.dw.com/en/six-years-after-fukushima-women-and-children-still-suffer-most/a-37871135

As I See It: Support for ‘voluntary evacuees’ insufficient but not too late to start

Kurumi Sugita: “I do not agree with the following part of the article.

“Radiation levels in Fukushima Prefecture dropped significantly shortly after the outbreak of the disaster, and in some areas, radiation levels are not much different from those in the Kansai region, where I live. “

There exists at least three problems which are related to each other:
1) you shouldn’t base your judgement only on airborne radiation measurements. We should look at the soil radio contamination density which is more reliable.
2) the official figures of airborne radiation measurements are average figures, which annihilates the problem of hotspots.
3) the governments do not acknowledge the risk of internal radiation and its health hazards.

All in all, the so-called “voluntary” evacuees have good reasons to keep evacuated and it is their basic human right.”

 

 

hjklkl.jpg

Friends help an evacuee (foreground) move in Osaka’s Suminoe Ward, ahead of the cutoff date for free housing, on March 18, 2017.

 

As I See It: Support for ‘voluntary evacuees’ insufficient but not too late to start

So-called “voluntary evacuees” who fled Fukushima Prefecture due to the ongoing nuclear crisis were cut off from free housing services at the end of March.

Since last fall, I have been reporting on the issue of termination of free housing for “voluntary evacuees” — those who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture out of radiation concerns, even though their places of residence did not come under the government’s evacuation orders — and have met many evacuees who faced termination amid straitened circumstances and with no prospects of living independently.

Six years have passed since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster, and I believe that insufficient assistance provided by the central government, the Fukushima Prefectural Government, and the municipalities to which Fukushima Prefecture residents evacuated led to the current state of affairs.

Following the onset of the nuclear crisis at Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011, some Fukushima Prefecture residents who did not live in areas designated by the central government as no-go zones “voluntarily” evacuated to other areas of Fukushima Prefecture and beyond. The Fukushima Prefectural Government regarded the homes such evacuees chose to live in as “temporary housing” provided to victims of disasters, and covered their rent. Unlike evacuees from areas designated as no-go zones, most “voluntary evacuees” have not been eligible for compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, leaving payment for housing from the Fukushima Prefectural Government as the only assistance such evacuees received. In June of 2015, however, the prefectural government announced that it would be terminating such assistance at the end of March 2017, saying that “an environment for leading everyday life in Fukushima is in the process of coming together.”

Radiation levels in Fukushima Prefecture dropped significantly shortly after the outbreak of the disaster, and in some areas, radiation levels are not much different from those in the Kansai region, where I live. However, many former Fukushima prefectural residents are still concerned with radiation, and among some families, children do not want to move back to Fukushima because they’ve made friends where they live now. As of October 2016, there were approximately 10,000 households of “voluntary evacuees” from Fukushima Prefecture. This spring, many of those households were faced with the difficult question of whether to move back to their hometowns, or pay out of pocket in order to continue life where they are.

What I took from reporting on the issue is the polarization of “voluntary evacuees.” Those who have been able to adapt to life where they’ve evacuated to and rebuild their lives said they wanted to leave behind their status as “evacuees.” Some even said they’d become leaders of neighborhood community associations.

Meanwhile, others said they couldn’t sleep at night because they were unable to find affordable housing, or that they didn’t have the funds to move. Among the latter were those with family members who have disabilities, or members who are from other countries and do not speak Japanese well — in other words, families who were vulnerable even before the outbreak of the nuclear disaster. I learned of cases in which people’s lives turned for the worse after they evacuated. For example, there have been cases of divorce that resulted after mothers evacuated with their children, leaving the father behind. Meanwhile, other evacuees developed mental illness or suffered strokes. Such evacuees needed assistance that was finely tuned to their individual needs in the areas of employment, medical care and education. However, there were many instances in which I felt they were not receiving sufficient care.

A 57-year-old man who “voluntarily” evacuated from the city of Fukushima to an Osaka municipal residence, remained isolated in a corner of the massive city for 4 1/2 years after the outbreak of the disaster. The man has a visual impairment that has qualified him for level-1 physical disability certification. He is not completely blind, but to read documents, he must step out onto the veranda for natural light and use a magnifying glass. With his disability, it is nerve-racking for him to go out alone in an unfamiliar city. His South Korean-born wife, 62, who helps him with his everyday life, does not read or write Japanese well. Because of this, he rarely obtained information from documents that were delivered to him from administrative offices or support organizations.

He thus remained unable to receive assistance, and was bogged down by debt that he incurred from moving and purchasing household furnishings. He didn’t even learn about the termination of free housing until six months after the Fukushima Prefectural Government made the announcement. Subsequently, based on the advice of a supporter who visited him at his home, he transferred his residency registration to the city of Osaka, and began receiving the city’s support services. However, he still has mixed feelings toward administrative agencies. “They had to have known about my visual disability. Whether it be the Fukushima Municipal Government or the Osaka Municipal Government, if someone had made the effort to inform me, I wouldn’t have had to suffer as much as I did,” he said.

In fiscal 2016, the Fukushima Prefectural Government and the municipalities to which Fukushima prefectural residents evacuated made individual visits to “voluntary evacuees.” They should have made the visits an opportunity not only to listen to residents’ concerns about housing after they were cut off, but also to help map out plans for households under straitened circumstances to become independent. But that was not necessarily the case.

A woman in her 50s who, with her child, evacuated from the Fukushima Prefecture city of Koriyama to a Tokyo public housing complex, was emotionally beaten down after constantly being reminded by housing management that she and her child were to leave by the end of the 2016 fiscal year. The woman said that she was even told that she could be hit with a lawsuit if she did not move out of the building.

The dedication with which local governments took the effort to visit evacuees differed from municipality to municipality, and at least one municipal government did not send staff to visit evacuees until three months before the free housing service was brought to an end. To make matters worse, many municipal governments were sending staff not from their welfare departments, but from their public housing departments to make the visits. Under such circumstances, criticism against municipal governments for lacking a commitment to provide comprehensive support to evacuees is hard to refute.

Another thing that caught my attention as I covered this issue is that a large number of evacuees are apprehensive about going on public assistance. A mother and child who evacuated to the city of Osaka declined advice to apply for welfare. They said they did not want to become a burden to the state, and eked out a living on an 80,000-yen monthly income. However, public assistance exists precisely for people like this family. Municipalities that have dispatched staff to make individual visits to evacuee households, and are abreast of which households are in dire straits, should actively try to dispel misperceptions and prejudice about welfare, and help those people receive the assistance they need.

I believe that the evacuees’ original municipalities of residence and the municipalities to which they evacuated are both responsible for the fact that they were unable to receive sufficient support before free housing was shut down. The Fukushima Prefectural Government assumed that the provision of housing assistance would suffice, while municipalities to which the residents evacuated had a latent notion that the evacuees weren’t “real” residents of the municipality.

It’s not too late, though. Both parties should collaborate and commit to closely assisting those facing grave hardships achieve self-reliance.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170413/p2a/00m/0na/012000c

3 Schools Return From Nuclear Exile

Two generations of Fukushima children sacrificed in the name of political expediency…

EN-467352-thumb450x

Students from two elementary schools and a junior high school attend the joint opening ceremony for a new school building in the town of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, on Thursday. The schools moved to makeshift venues in 2011 to escape radioactive fallout during the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Naraha sees three schools return from nuclear exile in Fukushima

FUKUSHIMA – Two elementary schools and a junior high school returned to their hometown in Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday six years after being forced to flee radiation spewed by the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

Around 90 students attended the joint opening ceremony at the new building housing the junior high school in Naraha, most of which is within a 20-km hot zone centered on the heavily damaged Fukushima No. 1 plant. The evacuation order for Naraha was lifted in September 2015.

Our school life in Naraha, which we have long awaited, begins today. One day, I want to do something for my town,” 11-year-old Hina Moue of Naraha Minami Elementary School said at the ceremony.

The two elementary schools will hold their classes in the junior high school building for the time being.

Since January 2013, the students had been studying at a makeshift facility further south in a university in Iwaki.

The junior high school building was under construction when the 2011 mega-quake and tsunami triggered the man-made nuclear crisis.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/06/national/naraha-sees-three-schools-return-nuclear-exile-fukushima/

 

hghfgds.jpg

Children are seen getting on a school bus at JR Hirono Station in Fukushima Prefecture on April 6, 2017, to attend classes in the town of Naraha.

Fukushima schools reopen for 1st time in 6 years after nuclear evacuation order lifted

NARAHA, Fukushima — All of the three public elementary and junior high schools here resumed classes on April 6 for the first time in six years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster broke out.

The whole town of Naraha was subject to an evacuation order in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant. While the order was lifted in September 2015, only about 10 percent of local residents have returned to the town.

This is the first time schools reopened in a municipality that was subject to evacuation orders in its entirety.

Students of the two municipal elementary schools and one junior high school had been studying at a makeshift school in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Iwaki, where many Naraha townspeople evacuated. They will now attend classes held at the Naraha Junior High School building. In the meantime, only 105 students, or 20-plus percent of those who would be able to enroll in these three schools, will be going to school there.

There are a total of 22 children who are commuting from Iwaki, approximately 30 kilometers away from the town. On the day that Naraha schools reopened, some of these children took a 25-minute train ride from JR Joban Line’s Iwaki Station and got on a school bus at a station in the neighboring town of Hirono. Since Naraha remains fairly empty even after the evacuation order was lifted, almost all the 105 students will take school buses between the train station and their school out of safety concerns.

Mineo Yokota, 52, who owns a restaurant in Naraha and commutes to his workplace from Iwaki by car, decided he would send his eldest daughter, a second-year junior high school student, to the school in his family’s hometown. She had transferred school three times since the nuclear disaster, due to evacuation.

“I had planned to drive her to school, but my daughter decided on her own to commute by train after talking to some of the upperclassmen. I’m relieved to learn that the kids have made their own community,” Yokota said.

Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said at the opening ceremony that the municipal government had prepared for this day “with the determination that ‘there is no future for a town without children'” even though reopening schools in Naraha “seemed impossible at one point.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170406/p2a/00m/0na/015000c