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Stop the monster concrete seawalls around Japan's tsunami affected area

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(日本語でのアピールは下記をご覧ください。The Japanese translation for this article is found at the bottom.)

The 2011 tsunami killed almost 20,000 people around one of Japan's most beautiful coastal areas. The government of Japan is now using this tragedy for their short-sighted, old-fashioned economic stimulous plan to build monster CONCRETE seawalls all around the 500km precious coastlines in spite of thousands of local residents' pleas against it.

One example of this gigantic seawall is a 14.7m high or as high as a 5-story high department building in your local shopping mall (!), 80m-wide concrete wall planned at the waterfront of the Koizumi district in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture. This seawall alone will cost twenty billion yen (Approx. $210M US dollars) of taxpayers' money and the government is planning to build hundreds of these alongside the pristine beaches, lagoons and marine sanctuaries of north-east Japan.

It is true that the residents of the affected area need reliable protection from tsunamis as soon as possible. The question is, WHY BUILD GIGANTIC CONCRETE WALLS when there are more environmentally sustainable alternatives being proposed by reconstruction advisory councils, research groups and resident bodies throughout the area.

One such council appointed body is the Kesennuma Reconstruction Civil Conference that consists of residents and researchers of Kesennuma in the same Prefecture. Their proposal for tsunami protection includes 'Forest-bench' embankments that use soil and vegetation instead of concrete. The Committee has favoured this over concrete because of its strength and sustainability: its 'absorption' or 'breathing' quality is more resistant to the impact of tsunamis than concrete; it is virtually maintenance free; and it has minimal environmental impact on the area's delicate ecosystem. Their projects also include construction of coastal native forest reserves that can 'sieve' and reduce the devastating power of tsunami water.

Instead of implementing these 'ground-up' tsunami protection projects that have already been examined for their effectiveness as well as environmental impacts, the Japanese government is pushing forward its usual 'take it or leave it' approach, making the local mayor make such comments as " if Kesennuma did not accept the government's plan to build these concrete walls, they (the government) may not help us when another tsunami strikes us". ( Mayor's response to the questions regarding his stance on the concrete seawall project, the 13th residential forum, Bouchoutei Benkyoukai Seawall Study Forum on

There are also those residents who say that it is time for their land to be returned to the sea where it originally belongs. In some cases, this was the only choice for those who needed to relocate to a higher ground because their entire suburb is designated as 'tsunami danger zone'.

The residents of Koizumi are also dismayed at the enormous cost that is put into this concrete wall when all it would protect from tsunamis is now vacant land to which no residents are allowed to return. In fact, such areas are now turning back into large seawater wetlands that give home to a diverse range of native coastal fauna and flora, already contributing to the reestablishment of the area's rich marine resources.

The new government of Japan has already budgeted more than two hundred billion yen ( approx. two billion US dollars) for the construction of these giant concrete seawalls in Miyagi Prefecture alone. Their plan is to enclose the entire coastline of the Pacific Ocean in Japan's Tohoku Region where fishing, aquaculture and marine tourism have been the main livelihoods of the residents. To make it worse, these walls will require regular maintenance and major asset renewal works every 50 years, the costs for which is not included in the government's one-off Disaster Recovery Budget.

What the residents of these beautiful coastal areas want is tsunami protection that allows them to co-exist with their precious marine environment. After all, despite its centuries of recurring tsunami devastations that have costed thousands of lives of their loved ones, the residents of Tohoku have made the choice to 'live with the sea'. Without the sea, they will lose their livelihoods. Without their livelihoods, they will not be able to live there. What is the use of 'protection' then, if there is no one to protect?

What is very puzzling is that the Ministry of the Environment within the same government is now designating the affected area as a new national park, as part of the 'Green Reconstruction' project, the basic principles of which states that "the reconstruction is aimed to maintain the natural environment and traditional lifestyle of the region for future generations; an environment fostered through the linkages between the Forest, Rivers, Sea and Satoyama ". If this is true, why build monster concrete walls everywhere?

My final point is this: I have lost my family and friends to the tsunami and I am extremely scared of anything like that to happen again. But I do not want our (their) beautiful homeland enclosed by gigantic concrete walls. I do not think my family or friends would want that, either.

So everyone, if you agree with what I say, please spread the word all over the world and ask everyone to petition. Even if you do not agree with me, please just start reading about it.

The giant concrete seawalls are not the answer to the protection from tsunamis. The Japanese government should stop pushing its plan that will cause detrimental damage to the lives of people in the region. What they want is for the government to provide the time, resources and funding to make further investigation and implement their own environmentally friednly, sustainable tsunami protection system that would grant their true wish to 'live together with the sea'.

Hiroko Otsuka

The information in this article can be found in:


コンクリート巨大防潮堤は本当に被災地の未来を救う最善の防災対策でしょうか? 政府の再検証を求めます。






こうした、その場所毎の地勢を考慮した安全性、耐久性、そして環境保護面に優れた防災対策案を無視し、再検討の時間を要請する多数の地元住民の陳情を退いて既に工事の進んでいる箇所を含め施工業者まで決まっている宮城県の村井県知事は、国の補助金は巨大防潮堤建設の決定した2011年から三年以内で切れると勧告されている為早急に建設しなくてはならないと述べ、気仙沼市の菅原市長は、憂慮する市民有志の手で合計十三回に渡って開催された「防潮堤を勉強する会」(の答弁で、被災地全体が国の基準に従ってコンクリートの巨大防潮堤建設を容認する中気仙沼だけが独自の方法を選択する訳にはいかない、独自の防災対策を選んだ後にもしまた津波の被害にあえば気仙沼だけが「(国から)見捨てられる」( と述べるなど、国の補助無しでは災害復旧も防災対策も進める事ができない被災地の状況を浮き彫りにしています。   


漁業、水産業、農業と観光業を生業とする東北の自然豊かな被災地に総額8200億円をかけて建設される370kmもの巨大防潮堤。寿命五十年と言われるコンクリートの多額な補修費用は災害復旧補助金に含まれてはいない事を明示もせず、津波から住民を護る為と言う大名目でどんどん建設が始まっています。1993年の大津波災害後やはり国の復興補助を受けた北海道の奥尻島の若者は、観光業が主な産業である奥尻に、海を壊し川をせき止めて海を見えなくしてしまった「要塞みたいな」防潮堤を建ててしまった災害復興は「間違いましたよね」とつぶやいたそうです。(   被災地の住民が必要とするのは、地域に合った最も安全で持続可能な防災対策です。何百年と繰り返す津波にかけがえのない命を奪われ生活の場を破壊されてきた被災地の人達が、苦しみを乗り越え自然との調和を目指した「海と生きる」復興を目指しているのです。海を失ってしまうことは生業を失うことなのです。生業を失った未来の若者達は被災地に住み続ける事はできなくなります。住む人がいなくなってしまったら何千億もかけて建設された巨大防潮堤は、一体誰を護るというのでしょうか。  


私も津波で大切な家族と友達を亡くしました。残された家族と地元の人達の安全を考えるといてもたっていられなくなります。だからこそ、より安全で強靭な防災対策を講じてもらわないと困るのです。その最善の防災対策は必ずしもコンクリートの巨大防潮堤であるとは限りません。コンクリートの「要塞」に囲まれてしまう被災地の家族や子供達はどうやって「海と生きる」生活を営んでいけというのでしょうか。亡くなった家族や友達の思いも同じなはずです。   コンクリートの巨大防潮堤だけが被災地を救う防災対策ではないことは明らかです。自民党政権は被災地の未来を破壊する一方的な防潮堤の建設が果たして被災地にとって最適な防災対策であるかどうか再検討すべきです。被災地が真の意味での復興を果たすには、十分な時間と調査研究に欠かせない特殊技術を持つ人材、そして適切な資金の補助が必要なのです。それぞれの地域の自然の特性を活かした環境保全型の防災システムを築こうとする被災地の住民の「海ととも生きる」未来を救ってください。  






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