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2014年6月24日 (火)

被災地の防潮堤 地域に応じた見直しが必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Seawall plans should be amended to suit the needs of local people
被災地の防潮堤 地域に応じた見直しが必要だ

Plans to build huge seawalls along the coastal areas hit hardest by the Great East Japan Earthquake have been met with staunch opposition from local residents one after another. We urge the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectural governments to calmly reexamine their seawall plans and alter them as necessary.

In the 2011 earthquake, 60 percent of seawalls with a total length of about 300 kilometers in the three prefectures were either seriously damaged or destroyed. The central and three prefectural governments are currently pushing a project to build 390 kilometers of new seawalls with ¥800 billion from state coffers.

To prepare for tsunami, adequately sized seawalls must be constructed. The problem is that many communities are opposed to the project as local residents consider the proposed walls “too high.”
“[The seawalls] will leave less land available along the coasts, adversely affecting fisheries” and “They will block ocean views” are two of the opinions expressed by local residents.

Miyagi Prefecture has yet to win approval for the project from 40 of 276 communities where the construction of new seawalls is planned.

Compared to the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which struck mainly urban areas, the disaster-hit regions in the three Tohoku prefectures are mostly depopulated. If the fishery and tourism industries on which local residents depend decline, their livelihood would be severely affected.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie, is among those who have questioned the advisability of building such high seawalls, saying, “I’m not sure that reconstruction should be carried out in such a way that it will block ocean views.” We completely understand their concerns.

Study cost-effectiveness

The higher the seawall is the more effective it will be as a safeguard against tsunami. But on the other hand, higher seawalls are more expensive to construct, ruin scenic views and take a toll on the environment. Such seawalls also entail higher maintenance costs. Moreover, the life of concrete seawalls is roughly 50 years, which makes rebuilding them inevitable at some point in the future.

Also from the viewpoint of cost-effectiveness, the project should be carefully studied.

Each of the three prefectures has decided on the height of the seawalls based on guidelines compiled by an examination committee of experts at the Central Disaster Management Council. The standard of seawalls in the guidelines is to protect the lives and property of local residents in the event of a huge tsunami, which can occur once in a few decades or more than a century.

Under its plan, Miyagi Prefecture will raise the height of its seawalls from the pre-disaster average of four meters to 7.5 meters. That height, however, will be insufficient to block gigantic tsunami equivalent to those in the Great East Japan Earthquake, which are said to occur once in a millennium.

Instead, the purpose of building seawalls should be to reduce the force of tsunami, thereby securing more time for residents to flee the area. It is important to ensure the construction of seawalls is a part of comprehensive measures to minimize damage from a disaster that also include the establishment of evacuation centers and routes.

Some communities have lowered the planned height of seawalls, while taking such measures as transferring houses to higher ground and building seawalls in locations further inland.

If the prefectural governments insist on keeping the planned heights and invite a backlash from local residents as a result, it will further delay work to implement disaster management measures and scuttle efforts to rebuild communities, and placing roadblocks in the path of reconstructing people’s lives.

Bearing this in mind, the prefectural governments must listen to what local residents have to say.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 23, 2014)


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