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AKIPRESS.COM - The instability of the Fukushima Daiichi plant continues to keep evacuees away from the disaster zone, Al Jazeera said on March 7.
It's from a distance that Naoki Kobayashi tries to manage the reformation of his town Namie, which sits empty 10 km away from the leaking nuclear plant that has wrought chaos on the lives of those in its radioactive reach.
In the relocated town office in Nihonmatsu, roughly 66 km west of Namie, Kobayashi and his colleagues are wrestling with a major dilemma: How do you rebuild a town when you're not sure anyone – especially the young – even wants to go back?
Around 30% of the residents said they don't plan to return to Namie, and another 30% indicated they're not sure they'll ever go back.
The main reason is fear of radiation, said Kobayashi. “The reality is that after three years of living in different places, if you put your kids in school, if you find a job, if you find a place for your parents, then most people don't see a reason to come back.”
Tax breaks for business and other incentives are being formulated to sweeten the deal for those who might return, but so far what Kobayashi and his team have found works best is engaging former Namie residents in the rebuilding process.
The timeline for decontaminating (though not rebuilding) the town is 2017, and if they want people to go back, then infrastructure must be in place to support even a gradual move back by a fraction of the population.
According to a recent government report, 136,000 people in Fukushima prefecture are still displaced from their homes after the March 11, 2011, earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear-plant meldowns devastated the area.
Within the first six months, some people were moved five times or more. More than 85% of evacuees in the three towns were moved at least three times. These moves led to Fukushima prefecture having the highest number of people dying as a result of poorly handled evacuations – often the elderly and the ill. The prefecture lost 1,603 people to the earthquake and tsunami. An additional 1,664 died during the evacuation process.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is telling the world that the Fukushima Daiichi plant is under control, but the people are still very watchful.