Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Many residents hope to rebuild on higher ground — Kan: State may buy tsunami-hit property

 Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Wednesday the administration is willing to consider buying out residential land hit by the March 11 tsunami from owners looking to relocate to higher ground.

                                                                                                   Photo: AFP/Yoshikazu Tsuno

 Speaking at a Lower House Budget Committee session, Kan said such a buyout would be a "major policy approach" to support people affected by the disaster. He also said his administration would "firmly support" the affected local governments to prevent them from falling into financial collapse.
 After the March earthquake triggered massive tsunami that ravaged vast areas and killed thousands in the northeast coastal areas, many residents are hoping to build new homes on higher ground.
 The quake and tsunami claimed some 20,000 lives.
 Meanwhile, touching on a contentious, predisaster government plan to promote the recycling of nuclear fuel, the prime minister said the nation should begin "fundamental discussion" on whether to go ahead or reconsider the plan.
 Regarding the nationwide scare over beef products from cows that had been fed straw containing radioactive cesium, Kan said the government will strive to ensure the safety of consumers.
 Kan's remarks came as the Lower House cleared the second extra budget for fiscal 2011 to help disaster victims rebuild.
 The spending package drew support not only from the Democratic Party of Japan but also from opposition parties, including the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.
 The extra budget was moved to the Upper House and is expected to clear the Diet on Friday.
 LDP lawmaker Shinjiro Koizumi stressed during the Lower House Budget Committee session that while his party was supporting the package, he and fellow LDP members remained dissatisfied with it.
 "I cannot help but say that the extra budget is too small and was submitted too late," Koizumi said. "This is a miniature-size budget and there is no way that (the Kan Cabinet) is accurately grasping the current situation in the disaster area."
 The ¥1.99 trillion package includes support for indebted individuals and companies, as well as for the compensation that Tokyo Electric Power Co. has to pay to victims of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
 A larger extra budget is necessary to pave the way for the true restoration and reconstruction work. The DPJ, however, is caught up in turmoil as it hopes to draft such a spending package under a new leader instead of the unpopular Kan, who has been repeatedly under criticism, most recently over his recent decision that all nuclear plants nationwide must undergo stress tests to ensure their safety, despite calls for reactor restarts amid the summer power crunch. He further proposed that the nation consider ending its reliance on nuclear power.
 During Wednesday's budget committee meeting, Kan said he changed his mind about promoting nuclear energy due to the accident at the Fukushima plant.
 "In the process of trying to resolve the situation, I have felt shivers down my spine many times," Kan said. "We've only begun to rely on nuclear power in the past several decades and I don't think we need to rely on it in the future."


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