Tohoku Earthquake Aid: Key Recovery as seen in “Seawall Study Workshop” In the affected areas of Tohoku, there is a combination of difficulties such as the relocation of houses to more elevated areas, disposal of debris from vast areas, employment security, and mental care for victims. For the people living in coastal areas, the subject of seawalls is one of the most controversial. A Seawall Study Workshop has been held around ten times during August and September by groups of volunteer residents in Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture. In Miyagi Prefecture, there is a plan to construct seawalls 3 to 11 meters in height divided into 22 blocks on the coastline. Even though the tsunami partially destroyed seawalls last March, there is the opinion that bigger seawalls are still necessary to prevent future disasters. On the other hand, there is the opinion that we should seek other preventive measures in consideration of the landscape and the ecological impact. As such, the workshop has become a means to advance the discussion on how to re-plan the community based on correct information; learn about legal aspects and local government policy, basic rules and the construction schedule; and exchange basic information within the district. Participants have been increasing - now numbering more than 100, and sometimes over 170. These workshops are not an opportunity for the people to express their opinion “for” or “against.” Moreover, the importance of expressing their own opinion from a local authority and civil standpoint has arisen with regards to reconstructing the community with cooperation from domestic and foreign advisers, also bearing in mind that the sea cannot be disregarded. In many of the affected areas of Tohoku, there have been demands to revitalize the area since before the disaster took place, as aging and depopulation is advancing. This is a common problem throughout Japan. The people are responsible for reconstruction as a concern for their livelihood, while the government authority is there to listen to the people. The first step for revitalization of the area is to discuss local revitalization. We entered the affected area by helicopter on the day following the incident and have been supporting the local residents in procuring and delivering aid goods. We have also been building on relationships with the local residents, advancing a network of intellectual resources and working on a mid to long term support program. Specifically, the introduction of an emergency medical helicopter, vitalization of tourism, renewable energy, and group relocation and reconstruction of community planning are main projects that are developing with the mid to long term viewpoint on reconstruction assistance projects. Details will be uploaded on our website whenever the occasion arises.
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