Few return to Fukushima schools after evacuation lifted

Fourteen public elementary and junior high schools in five municipalities near the Fukushima Daiichi NPP reopened their doors in April for the first time in seven years, but only 135 youngsters showed up. The figure represents just 3 percent of the 4,000 or so children who were enrolled at 21 local schools prior to the disaster…
Those municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted refurbished school buildings and constructed new swimming pools and gymnasiums to attract more children…
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Three first-graders gather at their classroom on April 6 in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, after a ceremony welcoming them to the elementary school.
 
Near-empty classrooms marked the start of the new academic year in municipalities where evacuation orders dating from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster were recently lifted.
 
Fourteen public elementary and junior high schools in five municipalities reopened their doors in April for the first time in seven years, but only 135 youngsters showed up.
 
The figure represents just 3 percent of the 4,000 or so children who were enrolled at 21 local schools prior to the disaster.
The low return rate highlights the daunting task for officials trying to revitalize local communities, given fears that an absence of children offers only murky prospects of survival.
 
Municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted refurbished school buildings and constructed new swimming polls and gymnasiums to attract more children.
 
Schools reopened in Namie, Tomioka, Iitate and the Yamakiya district of Kawamata, where evacuation orders were lifted in spring 2017 with the exception of difficult-to-return zones, as well as in Katsurao, where most of the village was deemed safe to return to in 2016.
 
Those municipalities had set up temporary schools at locations where many residents evacuated.
 
After the lifting of the evacuation orders, the percentage of residents who have returned to their former communities range from 3.5 percent in Namie to 33.9 percent in Kawamata.
Most of the returnees are senior citizens.
 
Younger residents apparently are reluctant to return due to lingering concerns about radiation and also because many have made a fresh start in the areas where they moved to after the disaster.
 
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SEVEN YEARS AFTER: Only trickle of former residents returning home to Fukushima

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March 22, 2018
Close to a year after evacuation orders were lifted in four municipalities near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, only 6.1 percent of evacuees have returned to live in their former communities.
 
According to a survey of displaced residents, the top reasons cited for not returning were the condition of their homes, concerns about radiation and the lack of hospitals and stores.
The Asahi Shimbun has conducted annual surveys of evacuees since June 2011 with Akira Imai, a senior researcher at the Japan Research Institute for Local Government.
 
In the latest survey, questionnaires were sent in mid-January to 329 individuals who participated in past surveys. Valid responses were received from 161 individuals now residing in 19 prefectures around Japan aged between 28 and 91.
Of the respondents, 114 were still living as evacuees.
 
Close to 70 percent of the respondents said the measures taken by the central and local governments leading up to the lifting of the evacuation order on March 31 and April 1, 2017, were insufficient.
 
Regarding those results, Imai said, “The lifting of the evacuation order was conducted without adequate consideration for the hopes of the evacuees to have their communities returned to their former condition.”
 
Last year’s lifting of the evacuation order covered areas of the four municipalities of Namie, Tomioka, Iitate and Kawamata that were outside the difficult-to-return zones.
 
In the joint survey, respondents were asked about measures taken by the central and local governments to decontaminate irradiated areas and construct social infrastructure. A combined 109 respondents said the measures were insufficient or somewhat insufficient.
 
They were asked their reasons for not returning.
Multiple answers were allowed, and the most popular response given by 59 people was because their homes were not habitable. Forty-eight people raised concerns about radiation exposure on their health.
 
The inconvenience of not having shops and hospitals nearby was cited by 56 people.
 
One 46-year-old resident of Namie who lives as an evacuee with her husband and two children in central Fukushima Prefecture has no plans to return because there are no hospitals in the community capable of looking after her oldest daughter, who has an illness that could require emergency care.
 
While the rates at which evacuees have returned to the four municipalities range between 3.5 percent and 31.1 percent, the rates have not necessarily increased dramatically in the other municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted before spring 2017.
 
While the rates are between 80 and 81 percent for Tamura and Kawauchi, it is only between 19 and 34 percent in the three other municipalities where the orders were lifted prior to spring 2017.
 

7 years after 3/11 / Public servants face massive workload

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Officials of the town government of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, work past 10 p.m. on March 2.
March 10, 2018
The work of local government officials of municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture has significantly changed in the seven years since the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. This is because a large number of residents and officials in the affected municipalities were forced to evacuate.
 
The government officials have struggled with unprecedented types of duties — such as those concerning the return of residents, which has not progressed smoothly — and dealing with other accumulated tasks all at the same time. However, the future of their hometowns remains unclear.
 
In Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, later this month it will be one year since an evacuation order was lifted.
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In the central part of the town, where the evacuation order was lifted, a small number of residents have slowly trickled back. However, the number of residents as of the end of January was only 490. This is 2.3 percent of the town’s population before the nuclear accident, which numbered 21,000.
 
In addition, about 100 of the current residents are local officials who live in apartments rented by the municipal government. Many of them live alone, separated from their families, who have become accustomed to living in the places they evacuated to.
 
The officials live this way partly because they need to be able to quickly respond to emergencies, such as new natural disasters. There is also a huge volume of work, which they cannot handle if they commute to the government offices from outside the town.
 
Five industrial complexes are concurrently being developed in the town. To encourage more residents to return home, it is necessary to create a large number of jobs.
 
This project is a task the officials have never undertaken before, as Namie is a small municipality whose core industries were agriculture and fishing.
 
One of the officials said, “Even one such project would have been a huge task that we might experience only once in a decade or two, [but] we are doing this work in as many as five locations.”
 
Another official said, “This would never have happened before the nuclear plant accident.”
 
The town government officials travel around the nation for purposes such as negotiating with evacuated landowners to purchase their land plots, and asking companies to set up business bases in the town.
 
The officials are also dispatched to eliminate wild boars, the number of which has rapidly increased while residents have been absent. They also need to arrange repairs to damaged roads, public facilities and agricultural water systems.
 
At night, lights are seen only in the windows of the town government office, while most of the town is in darkness.
 
The fiscal condition of the town government is almost totally different from before the nuclear disaster. Its finances rely almost entirely on the central government’s budget.
 
As many of the town’s residents have not been able to sufficiently rebuild their daily lives, measures to reduce or exempt them from residential tax have continued. Therefore, the percentage of the town government’s municipal tax revenues against its total revenue fell drastically, from 25 percent to 1 percent.
 
Administrative work in municipalities where the number of residents continues to be zero also presents a special situation.
 
In the case of Okuma in the prefecture, where an evacuation order remains in place across the whole town, the town government relocated its offices to nearby municipalities. For example, its section in charge of reconstruction policy is in a satellite office in Aizuwakamatsu in the prefecture. Its section for welfare-related work is in a satellite office in Iwaki in the prefecture, as about 4,600 town residents live in Iwaki as evacuees.
 
Town government officials in the satellite office in Iwaki, who are usually busy assisting elderly residents who live in temporary housing units, make 300-kilometer round trips to Aizuwakamatsu every week for meetings with other officials and other work purposes.
 
There are times when officials head to the town of Okuma to observe decontamination work to remove radioactive substances. In these job reports, the officials write “Okuma” as the destination of their business trips. An official in his 50s expressed the sadness he feels when he writes such reports, saying, “I wonder which municipal government I belong to.”
 
There are municipalities where the wounds caused by the tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake have still not healed.
 
In Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, 36 town government officials, including experienced public servants working in the personnel section, died or went missing.
 
In addition, the records of government officials’ qualifications, credentials and job evaluations were lost. An official in charge of this issue lamented that “managing the organization [of the town government] became difficult, and it has been adversely affecting the morale of our workplaces.”
 
In Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, the town government lost 39 people to the disaster. They included the mayor and eight senior officials at the section chief level.
 
Though younger town government officials were promoted, they do not have experience in supervising junior staff. Currently, those who joined the town government after the Great East Japan Earthquake account for half of all officials.
 
One of the senior officials said, “If we fail in fostering human resources, it will directly result in delays in reconstruction.” Many other senior officials share the same sense of crisis.
 
Civil engineering and construction work that began in the year of the disaster, such as raising land heights, relocating residential areas to higher ground, and building coastal levees, has progressed in visible ways.
 
However, survivors and local government officials in disaster-hit areas have the feeling that these reconstruction projects are somehow frustrating and lopsided.
 
A labor union conducted a survey of employees of municipal governments that were affected by the nuclear plant accident, with spaces in which respondents were asked to freely write down their feelings.
 
The written replies included, “For the past seven years I have never once felt free from unease,” and “I don’t know when our reconstruction efforts will end.”
 

 

7 years after, Fukushima still struggling to return to normal

March 5, 2018
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Almost one year has passed since the evacuation order for four municipalities around the ruined Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was lifted to make it possible for local residents to return home.
But the harsh reality of life in towns and villages devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and the consequences are clearly visible to anyone who visits these areas.
These towns and villages lack many of the functions and facilities to meet the essential needs of people such as housing, shopping, health and nursing care, jobs and communities. This is the reason why many of the local residents have not returned home despite an end to forced evacuation. A survey of evacuees by one local government found nearly 50 percent of the residents have no plan to return.
But it is also true that many of the people who left their towns and villages in the wake of the catastrophic accident want to eventually return home or are of two minds.
It is the government’s important role to make things easier for evacuees to return to their former communities if they want to do so while supporting their current lives.
The government needs to review the measures that have been taken so far and, if necessary, adjust them to better suit the actual circumstances.
A myriad of challenges are threatening to thwart the efforts to rebuild towns and villages ravaged by the disaster. But progress is only possible through hard, tenacious work and constant adjustments for the better.
REALITIES DETER RETURN OF EVACUEES
In Namie, a town located north of the nuclear plant, the newly built Namie Sosei elementary and junior high school, which is to open this spring, held a school enrollment briefing at the end of January.
“Each child receives more sufficient attention at a school with a small number of students, I believe,” says a father of two in his 30s who left Namie with his family following the disaster and now lives in Iwaki, a city in the prefecture farther from the nuclear plant. He has decided to return to Namie so that his children can attend the new school.
The opening of the school will be “an important step forward in the efforts to rebuild Namie back into a normal town where we can hear the voices of children,” says Kiichiro Hatakeyama, head of the municipal board of education.
But the number of such families is still small. Only about 10 students are expected to enter the elementary and junior high school in the first year.
Before the 2011 disaster, more than 20,000 people lived in the town. Only about 500 of them had returned by the end of January since the evacuation order was lifted.
Many evacuated residents have been discouraged from returning to the town by the slow progress in the restoration of the living environment.
There are convenience stores in the town but not a supermarket. Local residents have to drive dozens of minutes to shop at the nearest supermarket.
The municipal government is courting supermarket operators to open a store in the town, but the population is still too small to support this kind of business.
There are only clinics for surgery and internal medicine in Namie. Many of the residents who have returned are elderly people, and they are asking for dentists and eye doctors.
NEW APPROACH NEEDED TO ESCAPE FROM SITUATION
The situation is more or less similar in Tomioka and Iitate, two other municipalities where the evacuation order was called off at the same time with Namie. The government’s strategy aimed at encouraging evacuated residents of these communities to return home by stepping up the decontamination efforts has failed to work as expected.
As the living circumstances remain poor, evacuated residents don’t go back to their homes. As the population thus remains small, services necessary for daily life remain unavailable.
To break this never-ending cycle, the central and local governments need to come up with better ideas to improve the living environment.
As for medical and nursing care services, the Fukushima prefectural government and the administration need to work together with organizations involved to provide active support for the efforts to secure service providers instead of leaving the task entirely to the municipalities.
A system should be created to provide policy support for retailers, not just for their preparations to restart their businesses, but also for their actual operations for a certain period of time.
There are obviously limits to what individual municipal governments can do independently to regenerate their cities, towns and villages.
Cooperation among areas, such as joint efforts by multiple municipalities to restore necessary functions and facilities, is essential.
There have been troubling signs that the government’s policy to support the reconstruction of disaster-hit areas tends to focus on the building of new facilities.
Costly projects to build various facilities, such as research and development institutions in the areas of energy and robotics and large sports facilities, are under way in the region.
“Some local government chiefs are forging ahead with public works projects to build facilities in a rush to take advantage of the central government budget for post-disaster reconstruction while the money is available, but they are failing to think about the ongoing costs,” says a senior official at the municipal government of one affected town. “The central government is also acting in a somewhat senseless manner.”
The administration stresses the importance of helping rebuild the lives of local residents. But its priorities in allocating the financial and human resources seem to be messed up.
SUPPORT FROM ENTIRE SOCIETY
In disaster-stricken areas, the vital bonds between people have been totally destroyed by the effects of prolonged periods of living as evacuees. Local communities have also been hurt by conflict and division over such issues as the status of evacuees as to whether they can return home or how much compensation they have received.
Rebuilding the broken human ties is no easy task. But there are some encouraging signs as well.
In Naraha, where about 30 percent of the residents have returned since the evacuation order was lifted two and a half years ago, a small and casual Japanese restaurant named Yui no Hajimari, which opened in September last year, is thriving. At night, it is thronged with residents in the neighborhood and nuclear workers.
Kaori Furuya, the 33-year-old woman who runs the restaurant, used to work in the Tokyo metropolitan area but decided to start the business in the town after she became involved in a project to help people acquire the skills and abilities needed for the reconstruction of affected communities.
“I want to keep operating the restaurant as a place where local residents and people from outside the town develop contacts and enjoy spending time together naturally,” Furuya says.
Iitate will soon launch a program to expand ties and communication with other parts of the nation. The program, dubbed “Furusato Juminhyo” (hometown certificate of residence), will involve various attempts to convey information about Iitate to people outside who want to support the town and provide them with opportunities to mix with local residents, according to the municipal government.
“We will test various ideas designed to build a new village instead of trying to restore the village to its former state,” says Iitate Mayor Norio Kanno.
Seven years since the calamitous nuclear accident, people in Fukushima are still facing a grim reality and fighting an uphill battle to find a way to regain an environment that enables them to enjoy a peaceful and quiet daily life.
What must not be forgotten is the grave fact that the accident occurred in connection with the government’s long-running policy of promoting nuclear power generation.
Our society is facing a serious test of whether it can keep this in mind and commit itself as a whole to supporting the affected communities’ struggles to rebuild themselves.

Japan wants Fukushima evacuees to go home. They’re not so sure.

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About 160,000 people left their homes in 2011, after an earthquake and tsunami triggered the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Today, the government says it’s safe for many to return. But regaining residents’ trust remains a challenge.
February 21, 2018 Yonezawa, Japan—For Toru Takeda, the best and worst parts of life in Yonezawa are the same: snow. Located in the mountains 150 miles north of Tokyo, the city typically lies under a few feet every winter. It snows so much that many streets in Yonezawa are equipped with sprinklers that spray warm underground water to keep them clear.
Mr. Takeda is still getting used to the sheer amount of snow and the inconveniences that come with it. Train delays. Slow traffic. Shoveling. It doesn’t snow nearly as much in Fukushima City, his hometown, an hour-long drive away in good weather.
But snow has its benefits when it melts. “The soil here is rich because the snow melts slowly,” Takeda says one morning at a diner in downtown Yonezawa. He’s certain that the gradual thaw makes the fruits and vegetables grown in the region some of the best in Japan. Taking a sip of coffee, he adds solemnly, “The water and soil in Fukushima [Prefecture] is still contaminated.”
It’s been almost seven years since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck the northeast coast of Japan and triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. The cleanup is projected to cost $200 billion and take up to 40 years. Yet already many of the area’s 160,000 evacuees have started to return.
The Japanese government says it’s safe, but Takeda isn’t convinced. His faith in authority was shattered by the botched response to the meltdown. Today, he remains suspicious of everything from regulatory agencies to utility companies, to say nothing of food safety and, of course, nuclear power. Whether the government is able to regain Takeda’s trust – and the trust of thousands of others like him – is an important test of its ability to revive the cities and towns of Fukushima.
“We don’t believe the government anymore,” Takeda says, speaking for himself, his wife and daughter, and about 20 other evacuees he knows who have refused to leave Yonezawa. “I’ll do anything and everything I can to make sure we can stay,” he declares. That includes going to court.
Man on a mission
It all started last March, when the Fukushima prefectural government ended unconditional housing subsidies to nearly 27,000 people who left areas not designated as mandatory evacuation zones – including Takeda and many others in Yonezawa. Faced with the choice of returning to areas they fear are still unsafe or paying rent many can’t afford, they’ve chosen neither. Instead, they’ve stayed in their apartments and refused to pay rent. The local public housing agency tolerated this for a while. Then, in September, it filed an eviction lawsuit against the so-called voluntary evacuees, who quickly hired a team of lawyers in response.
“The Japanese government and Tepco caused the disaster,” Takeda says, referring to Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. “They should have to pay.”
Since moving to Yonezawa in April 2011, Takeda, a 77-year-old retired high school English teacher, has emerged as the de facto leader of the city’s evacuee community. He organizes social gatherings and frequently meets with local government officials. He and his wife even set up a learning center in their small, three-room apartment for evacuee children. The center closed after two years, and now Takeda spends most of his time on the lawsuit. He does everything from fundraising to meeting with lawyers.
“The government hates me,” he says. “If not for me then the evacuees would have already gone back.”
While the lawsuit in Yonezawa continues, some victims have already found redress. In October, a district court in Fukushima ruled that the Japanese government and Tepco must pay damages totaling $4.4 million to about 2,900 people. It was the third case in which a court found the company negligent in not preventing the meltdown. 
‘It breeds distrust’
Yonezawa, which lies 60 miles northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, was once home to as many as 3,900 evacuees from Fukushima. There are fewer than 500 now left, according to government figures. Some have returned home, either out of financial necessity or because they believe it’s safe, but many have refused. In a survey conducted last April by the Fukushima government, 80 percent of voluntary evacuees living in other parts of Japan said they had no intention of going back.
The government has worked hard to assuage any lingering fears. But Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace, says officials have played down the potential health risks because of the pressure they feel to put a positive spin on the situation. With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaching, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to deliver on his promise that the Fukushima cleanup effort is “under control.”
“Having zones where people can’t live is politically unacceptable for the government,” Mr. Burnie says. “It creates the impression that a nuclear disaster can destroy whole communities for a long time.”
As the government rushes to revitalize Fukushima, it may run the risk of deepening public distrust, diminishing the respect for authority that is deeply rooted in Japanese society. A 2017 Pew survey found that 57 percent of Japanese have at least some trust in the national government to act in the country’s best interests, though just 6 percent have a lot of trust in national leaders.
Timothy Jorgenson, an associate professor of radiation medicine at Georgetown University, wrote in a 2016 online commentary that one of the government’s mistakes was its decision to increase the maximum limit of radiation exposure from 1 microsievert to 20 microsieverts per year. (Microsieverts measure the effects of low-level radiation.)
“To the Japanese people, this raising of the annual safety limit from one to 20 mSv appears like the government is backpedaling on its commitment to safety,” Dr. Jorgenson wrote. “This is the problem with moving regulatory dose limits after the fact to accommodate inconvenient circumstances; it breeds distrust.”
Jorgenson wrote that the government would be better off to just explain what the health risks are at various radiation doses and leave it at that. Armed with such information, evacuees could decide for themselves if they want to return home.
For now, the government appears poised to further cut housing subsidies to evacuees. Its current plan would remove 5,000 households from the roll by March 2019. Advocacy groups are pressuring it to reconsider. In a written statement submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Feb. 2, Greenpeace and Human Rights Now, a Tokyo-based nongovernmental organization, called on the government to “provide necessary housing support to all Fukushima evacuees, including those who evacuated from outside the government designated areas, as long as needed to ensure their ability to freely choose where they will live without pressure to return areas where their health or life would be at risk.”
If the Japanese government were to take such advice, the lawsuit in Yonezawa could end. Takeda says it’s a tempting thought, but rather than waiting for the government to change its plan, he’s busy preparing for his next court appearance on March 20.
“I don’t have much time left,” Takeda says. “I can’t go home.”

49% of Fukushima nuke disaster evacuees returning home to live are elderly: survey

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Nearly half of people currently living in nuclear disaster-hit areas in Fukushima Prefecture where evacuation orders have been lifted are aged 65 or over, a survey conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun has found.

The population aging rate — the ratio of people in this age group to the population — in these areas is nearly twice the figure before the outbreak of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster in March 2011, as many younger evacuees have not come back to their hometowns for fear of being exposed to radiation or have settled down in areas where they took shelter.

The regional communities in these areas could be endangered because their current population is less than 10 percent of the pre-disaster figure and households in these areas consist of smaller member numbers.

The Mainichi Shimbun surveyed nine cities, towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture about the situations of areas where evacuation orders had been lifted by this past spring

As of July and August, 5,951 people in 2,970 households have returned to or newly moved into these areas. Of these people, 2,929, or 49.2 percent, are aged at least 65.

According to a national census conducted in 2010 — before the March 2011 disaster — the rate was 27.4 percent in all areas of these nine municipalities.

The latest figure is above the anticipated population aging rate in Japan for 2065, which the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research put at 38.4 percent.

Of all the nine municipalities, the population aging rate in the village of Kawauchi is the highest at 71.3 percent. The town of Naraha has the lowest figure, but it still stands at 37 percent.

The figures in Kawauchi and two other municipalities among these nine are higher than the 60.5 percent in the village of Nanmoku, Gunma Prefecture, which had the highest population aging rate of all municipalities in Japan in the 2015 census.

The number of people who currently live in the areas where evacuation orders have been lifted is less than 10 percent the number of people registered as residents just before the disaster, which was slightly above 60,000.

Members of a growing number of households in these areas are living separately. The average number of members per household is two, almost equal to the figure in Tokyo at 2.02 in the 2015 census, which is the smallest number among all 47 prefectures. In the 2010 pre-disaster census, the average figure in the nine municipalities had been 3.04.

An official of the city of Minamisoma, one of the nine municipalities, expressed concerns about the aging of its population. “There’ll be a growing number of cases where people living by themselves die alone and where an elderly family member has to look after another elderly member,” the official said.

In Minamisoma, only a limited number of medical institutions and nursing care facilities have reopened. “There’s a serious workforce shortage,” the official lamented.

Only about five of 94 members of volunteer firefighters in the village of Katsurao have returned home since the evacuation order was lifted.

An official of the Katsurao Municipal Government voiced fears about the shortage of volunteer firefighters. “We are worried that it will be difficult to mobilize these volunteers if a fire breaks out in the village. As long as there are not enough young people, it’ll be difficult to maintain the fire brigade in the village,” the official said.

Ritsumeikan University associate professor Fuminori Tanba, who was involved in the compilation of restoration plans in municipalities where evacuation orders were issued, noted, “The situation of areas affected by the nuclear crisis heralds the future situation of Japan where the birthrate is declining and the population is aging. Local governments need to join hands across broad areas in addressing challenges that cannot be tackled by a single municipality, such as nursing care and disaster management,” he said.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170909/p2a/00m/0na/004000c

For Fukushima returnees, security a growing concern in deserted towns

n-fukushimafile-a-20170619-870x577.jpgThe deserted streets of the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, are seen at night after its evacuation order was lifted in this undated photo.

 

Via Fukushima Minpo –  It’s like a dream to once again be able to live in my “home, sweet home.”

That’s what Hidezo Sato, 72, says he feels every day since returning to his fallout-hit hometown of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.

The government partially lifted its nuclear evacuation order on March 31, six years after radiation from the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant forced them to evacuate.

Now, friends come by to chat at his home in the Gongendo district, which is much more comfortable than where he spent the past six years living as a Fukushima evacuee.

But one thing still bugs him — he doesn’t feel safe at night.

According to town officials, only about 300 residents have come back so far.

Many of the houses in Sato’s neighborhood remain uninhabited. So when he spots a car parked in the dark, it frightens him.

If safety and security aren’t ensured, there won’t be more people coming back,” Sato said.

Sparked by returnees’ concerns about security, many recovering municipalities have set up neighborhood watch groups, installed security cameras and taken other measures to increase safety.

In December, two men were arrested on theft charges after spotted by security cameras.

In Minamisoma, City Hall is installing home security systems for returnees in the Odaka district that allow them to alert a security company simply by pushing a button. As of April 27, about 240 households, or 30 percent of the roughly 770 households that have returned, had the system installed by the city.

The number of police officers brought in from outside Fukushima to help patrol the no-go zone has been reduced to 192, or about 150 fewer than five years ago. The police presence is expected to decline further as decontamination progresses, raising concerns on how to ensure security there in the future.

Many municipalities have been funding security costs with central government subsidies, but it is unclear whether that will continue after fiscal 2020, when the state-designated reconstruction and revitalization period is scheduled to end. The Reconstruction Agency is also slated to be dissolved by then.

A top Reconstruction Agency official would only say it will “consider the issue in the future.”

For its part, the town of Namie is expected to spend about ¥700 million in fiscal 2017 to fund the neighborhood watch teams and surveillance systems. But town officials are worried whether they’ll be able to afford the systems once the subsidies dry up.

Reconstruction minister Masayoshi Yoshino, a Lower House politician representing the Fukushima No. 5 district, said in April that he will consider creating a new government entity to take over the work of the Reconstruction Agency.

I want the government to tell us that it will continue to fund” such projects, said Namie Deputy Mayor Katsumi Miyaguchi.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/18/national/fukushima-returnees-security-growing-concern-deserted-towns/