Whose reconstruction? – the tsunami disaster one year on

One year on from the biggest earthquake to hit Japan, with media interest having dwindled, relief NGO Peace Boat has announced today that it will continue to work for the foreseeable future in the Tohoku area so devastated by the tsunami wave. Why?

When we visited the fishing town of Ishinomaki in September, we witnessed the hard work, and phenomenal organization, of Peace Boat volunteers and workers, still clearing debris from the beaches and serving hot food in emergency shelters.

Now their work has shifted to helping restore the infrastructure and to focussing on the long-term psycho-social problems of people who lost their homes and loved ones. As the emergency shelters closed, tsunami survivors have been rehoused far from their original homes, often isolated and left alone with their trauma. Just before our trip, one man in this situation in Ishinomaki committed suicide.

One local man, Konno Fumiaki, from Rikuzentakata, 60 miles to the north of Ishinomaki, commented:

“Unfortunately, in spite of the effort of our mayor and city authorities, one big flaw is there. That there is very little communication or consultation with the local population, who are dispersed in different parts of the city, and sometimes outside of the city, and that worries me so much. It seems that in spite of the enormous help from outside, our future planning is not going to be the planning made by the people ourselves, but a plan made by a few officials, and the outside agencies and the government and the companies and so on. so I am very worried that our town in the future may not be the town of our own. That concerns me so much.”