Thursday, September 8, 2011

08/09 47 schools unable to rebuild after disaster

Forty-seven schools that have been using other schools' facilities since the March 11 disaster still are undecided on where and how to rebuild their own facilities, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.
The survey was conducted on 82 public primary, middle and high schools in 24 cities and towns in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures that are using buildings of nearby schools after theirs were severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
According to the survey results, 47 schools in 16 municipalities, or about 60 percent of the schools surveyed, had no plans to build temporary facilities or take other steps as of Tuesday. About 4,800 school children attend the 47 schools.
Municipalities that were struck by the March 11 tsunami are, in principle, required to relocate schools to higher ground. But they are not eligible to receive state subsidies for the cost of purchasing and preparing land for schools under the current law. Because of this, they are facing difficulty in securing relocation sites.
Education ministry officials say it is difficult to provide these schools with state subsidies for disaster restoration projects under existing law.
Calls for the prompt establishment of new legislation to address the issue may grow, observers said.
The survey found that only five of the 82 schools have committed to repair their original school facilities or relocate to new facilities as planned since before the disaster.
Another 30 schools said they had started or were planning to build temporary prefabricated facilities on other schools' grounds or athletic parks.
Under the law on government financial contribution to public schools on facility restoration from disaster damage, the government bears two-thirds of restoration costs when school facilities have been destroyed or severely damaged. But the law stipulates this applies to cases in which school facilities would be rebuilt at their original locations. The law provides no stipulation for cases in which school facilities need to be relocated.
Students using other schools' facilities have been facing various inconveniences, but municipal governments are in a quandary as there is very little public land that was not affected by the tsunami in the disaster-hit areas.
"We're giving priority to the construction of temporary housing units," said an Ishinomaki city government official in Miyagi Prefecture.
Some municipalities may consider obtaining privately owned land. But some lots not damaged by the disaster have inflated prices.
"Unless we receive state subsidies, we face enormous financial burdens," a town official of Yamadamachi, Iwate Prefecture, said, adding that the municipality has no chance to obtain private land.
An official of Minami-Sanrikucho, Miyagi Prefecture, stressed the town's dire financial situation, saying, "We absolutely lack the budget [resources] as we must restore facilities other than schools as well."
There is also a government subsidy to assist the relocation of local residents in groups from areas affected by natural disasters. However, this covers the rebuilding of housing facilities and does not cover the expenses of purchasing land or preparing it for the construction for school relocations.
An official of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, which has received requests for state aid from municipal governments, said the ministry has asked the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry to include school relocations in the subsidy program for group relocations under its jurisdiction.
(Sep. 8, 2011)

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