Use decided for 70% of vacated disaster-hit land

The Yomiuri ShimbunWith Sunday marking seven years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, municipalities in coastal areas of the disaster-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima have decided on the use to be made of about 70 percent of vacant land after residents collectively relocated, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

Municipalities in the three prefectures are promoting projects to collectively relocate residents in disaster-affected communities to elevated or inland areas, and to buy the vacated land from victims of the disaster for reconstruction purposes.

As the overall prospect for the land’s use after the relocation of residents comes into view, the majority of the use for public space was meant for parks and greenery areas, which could be a burden on future generations due to their high maintenance and administration costs.

The survey was conducted in February and March, targeting 26 cities, towns and villages in the three prefectures, about the use of land after residents’ relocation.

According to the survey results, out of land totaling 2,088 hectares in coastal areas that were purchased by the municipalities, the use of 1,432 hectares, or 69 percent of the total, was decided, or has already been improved and used for other purposes.

As of October 2015, the percentage of land whose use had yet to be decided was 65 percent, meaning that the decision on how to use this land has progressed significantly in 2½ years.

Among the 26 municipalities, 23 have tallied up areas according to purpose. Based on those tallies, about 70 percent of the land has been used for public space, mainly parks, greenery areas, seawalls, roads and sites to construct public facilities. The remaining about 30 percent is planned to be used for industrial purposes, such as inviting companies to set up operations on the land.

Half of the public space was for parks and greenery areas. Because such use does not lead to revenue from tax or business rental, it costs a lot to maintain and operate it.

In this fiscal year, the town of Shichigahama, Miyagi Prefecture, used a total of ¥3.5 million to remove weeds from a park on a plot the town purchased and from undeveloped plots.

“If the number of parks increases, the costs for eradicating weeds and cleaning them would increase,” said an official in charge of the town’s section for financial affairs.

When it comes to land for industrial use, in municipalities with good traffic access, such as Sendai and nearby Iwanuma, both in Miyagi Prefecture, the operation of factories and other industrial facilities has started and concrete negotiations to build more industrial facilities have begun.

However, inviting companies to make use of this land has not progressed in coastal areas in the prefecture.

An official in charge of the Kesennuma city government in the prefecture said, “As the plots we purchased are in an area flooded by tsunami, companies may hesitate to move to these plots, taking into account traffic convenience and other factors.”

The use of a total of 656 hectares of land has yet to be decided. One of the main reasons is that some municipalities cannot secure sizable pieces of land so have difficulties developing land.Speech

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