Restoring Agriculture and Food Sector Aftermath of Great Tohoku Disaster: Implications for the Resilience of Japan

Event: Restoring Agriculture and Food Sector Aftermath of Great Tohoku Disaster: Implications for the Resilience of Japan
Date: 8th November 2011

The Great Tohoku Earthquake that occurred on 11th March 2011 is the most powerful earthquake in the known history of Japan. A chain of events unfolded after the earthquake that included a tsunami of historical magnitude that damaged critical infrastructure such as nuclear power plants located in Fukushima leading to release of unknown quantities of nuclear radiation into the environment. As a consequence of these series of events, lives of more than 25,000 people were lost, many went missing, and hundreds and thousands were displaced into various prefectures of Japan. Though Japan is known for its advanced earthquake and tsunami risk mitigation measures, these events have clearly overwhelmed the national and prefectural administration leading to a national emergency that is still unfolding.
Subsequently, many policy makers and disaster risk reduction specialists in Japan and abroad have been focused on how to rehabilitate the displaced people and how to reconstruct the affected areas. The national and affected prefectural governments have put in place several measures for rescue, rehabilitation, compensation, and reconstruction in the affected areas. Amidst all these discussions and developments, one aspect seemed didn’t not get much attention as much as it deserves i.e. the radiation safety aftermath of damage to nuclear power plants in Fukushima. The release of unknown quantities of radiation into environment has several implications in terms of health safety of citizens even beyond the disaster affected areas, mistrust on Japanese exports, delayed rehabilitation in areas with high radiation exposure, demand for imported food, and implications in terms of economic growth for a country whose economy primarily depends on exports.
This raises important questions that need immediate answers from the perspective of civil society and disaster risk reduction professionals: what radiation related issues are faced by the civil society, how food safety regulations in Japan consider radiation contamination, what specific limitations are posed by the radiation for speedy disaster recovery, and what it all means for the resilience of the Japanese society as a whole? These are also the questions that the civil society in Japan is interested to know answers for, as evident from several discussion boards and networks that have emerged on Internet. This informal event aims to address these questions in a greater detail with an objective of finding a way forward. This initiative is funded by the Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN) through the project CRP2010-02CMY-Pereira.