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The lasting legacy of Fukushima disaster

It was not caused by earthquake or tsunami but by complacency and arrogance of nuclear authorities at the reactor.

Three years back, on March 11, the accident at Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor site devastated the lives and dreams of thousands of people. The earthquake and tsunami which preceded the nuclear accident had already created enough destruction. However, in days to come, people who were lucky to escape the natural wrath were faced with the danger of a different kind — radioactive contamination. Their luck ran out soon, a day after, as people had to leave everything behind and evacuate, with no assurance that they would ever be able to get back to their old lives.

Last year in October, when I was visited one of the evacuated areas- Tamura City, the feeling was surreal. For a city, Tamura is too quaint and idyllic, lush green and surrounded by hills. However, as one travels around the city, the reality hits. Tamura is 40 kms from the reactor site and hasn’t suffered any damage because of the earthquake. However the radioactive contamination has made it a ghost town. There are hardly any people left in the city. Occasionally a car passes by. The broken vending machines, with canned drinks from before the disaster tell their own story. The abandoned shrine on the hilltop with overgrown grass must have seen better days and as if these subtle signs are easy to ignore, the thousands of big black bags filled with radioactive soil and grass, with radiation dose rates scribbled on them, strewn around the city is hardly something one can ignore.

Since the disaster in 2011, I have been travelling to Japan with Greenpeace radiation monitoring team each year. Every time the magnitude of the disaster and its impacts leave me overwhelmed and very angry. Angry because, in its own Parliamentary report Japanese authorities noted that the accident was ‘manmade’ and hence avoidable. It was a disaster not caused by earthquake or tsunami but because of complacency and arrogance of nuclear authorities at the reactor.

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