Cabinet OKs bill to quicken clearing debris in wave-hit area

Japan Tsunami
Tokyo, Jul 8: The Cabinet on Friday approved a bill to enable the central government to remove and dispose off debris from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster on behalf of afflicted municipalities upon their request, a measure that local authorities have repeatedly called for.

Under the bill, 148 municipalities in nine prefectures affected by the disaster would be eligible for government help to expedite clearing of the massive buildup of rubble. The local authorities would still need to shoulder part of the cleanup costs.

There is an estimated 21.8 million tons of debris in the hardest-hit coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures alone, obstructing reconstruction work and affecting residents'' daily lives as accumulated rubble has become a breeding ground for pests.

"We hope to have this legislation passed without delay as it would enable the cleanup of debris to speed up tremendously," Environment Minister Satsuki Eda told a news conference.

At deliberations in parliament, the ruling and opposition camps are likely to tussle over the financial burden for municipalities. The Liberal Democratic Party and other opposition parties, which have already jointly submitted a similar bill to the Diet, want the government to bear the entire cost for the cleanup.

Eda said that while the government will uphold the fundamental principle that it is the municipalities'' job to handle waste disposal, financial assistance will be given such as through tax allocation to ease their burden.


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