High-risk areas common in 90% of ‘compact cities’ in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri Shimbun A total of 248 municipalities — more than 90 percent of the 269 municipalities nationwide that have been promoting a policy of centralizing public and commercial facilities, residential areas and others in preparation for population aging and decline — have areas with high disaster risks in their specially promoted residential zones, according to a survey by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

Residents’ lives could be in danger from landslides and other disasters in some of the high-risk areas. The ministry intends to review its town planning guidelines and demand that municipalities exclude dangerous areas from their centralization plans.

The compact city policy was introduced under the Special Measures concerning Urban Reconstruction law, which was revised in 2014, to save on administrative costs and other reasons. Under this policy, local governments draw up a town planning blueprint and designate areas for centralized functions including residential purposes.

According to a survey conducted by the ministry at the end of July, 26 municipalities, including Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, and Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture, have specially promoted residential zones that contain areas such as sediment disaster special hazard zones where development is restricted by law because of danger to residents. In addition, a total of 247 municipalities, including Chiba, Wakayama and Tokyo’s Fussa, have designated areas of relatively high risk, such as from inundation.

However, local governments have pointed out that designating urban areas that have existed for a long time as dangerous is unrealistic.

The ministry has made the centralization policy a pillar of its measures to revitalize regional economies, and since the introduction of the system, has been urging local governments to not draw people to live in areas with higher disaster risks. Based on the results of the survey, the ministry plans to review the basic guidelines for town planning and ask local governments to specify the safety measures for areas where people can be guided to reside.Speech

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