People affected by the great earthquake are still greatly struggling to recover their life and business, and to rehabilitate from their emotional trauma. On the contrary, what was reconstructed with marvelous speed were the large-scale public facilities, or infrastructure.
Huge Budget for Infrastructure Reconstruction
Kobe city's post-disaster finances (settled account of 2,368.3 billion yen for the disaster-related projects) shows the following characteristics. (1) Only 8% was spent to support people's well-being, while 35% was spent for restoration works and 57% for reconstructive development works. Priority was put on the reconstructive development and restoration rather than on people's living condition. (2) In the finances for restoration works (834.5 billion yen), the amount spent for port-related works was the greatest at 254.6 billion yen. (3) In the development-oriented reconstruction, the greatest amount was 367.7 billion yen for urban planning, such as land readjustment projects and redevelopment projects for a new urban center in the eastern area (HAT Kobe), followed by 271.5 billion yen for public housing for the victims, and 133.5 billion yen for roads and parks. The national subsidy in the port and road-related projects was increased to cover 80-90% of the cost, and even the Kobe Port Terminal Corporation and the Kobe New Transit Co., LTD, which are usually not the targets of national subsidy, were subsidized for 80-90% of the reconstruction-related expenses. Therefore, the funds actually poured into the infrastructure facilities should be accordingly far greater than the amount stated above.
Imbalance with the Life and Business of People
Reconstruction of infrastructure facilities itself is not a bad thing to do, but there are two issues to be focused on. The first is that the construction expenditures are out of balance with support for the life and business of disaster-affected individuals. The City of Kobe made it clear that they do not recognize compensation for individuals and did not make any demand towards the national government for that. What they put a top priority on, instead, was the construction of the Kobe airport and restoration of the port area. As a result, though the Kobe port was reconstructed swiftly and smoothly, the shipping volumes have not recovered and the facilities are still below full capacity.
Reemergence of the Pollution Cause
The second issue lies in the attitude toward the reconstruction of the infrastructure by only replicating it as it had been in the pre-disaster period. The case of reconstruction of the Hanshin Expressway, which collapsed in the earthquake, was a good example. The Great Hanshin Earthquake was the most disastrous on record which vitally affected the heart of a modern city. The damage was caused by many factors, including quite a few related to the design and structure of the big cities. One should be the problem of dilapidated housing in the inner-city area, and some others should be the problems which must have caused the huge damage to elevated highways and railroads. The opportunity should have been taken to rethink an adequate urban structure.
As is widely known in Japan, the pre-earthquake Hanshin Expressway, had been an agent of pollution and there were three court actions in dispute due to the pollution. In other words, the existence of the expressway itself had almost for certain been regarded as harmful. Therefore, it should not have been reconstructed as it had been just because it collapsed in the earthquake. Nevertheless, the heads of the local governments, including the Hyogo prefectural governor and Kobe city mayor, unanimously made a request to the Hanshin Expressway Public Corporation for a quick reconstruction. Even if the request was made by the request from the public corporation, the government still willingly approved the reconstruction of the elevated highway despite knowing that there is a great possibility of bringing harm to the residents. What should have been done was to set up some opportunities to consider what kind of transportation would be adequate, encouraging the residents to take part in the discussion to give their opinions, to find a solution.
Removal of the Expressway -- the Case in the United States
As a matter of fact, when an expressway collapsed in a great earthquake in San Francisco, the United States, several years before the Kobe Earthquake, there was a heated discussion among residents and specialists from the environmental and economic points of view. As a result, the expressway was demolished and removed. In the case of Japan, it cannot be said that the life of the victims and environmental factors were taken into consideration in the ready and reckless reconstruction without the residents' participation.
In San Francisco, the expressway that collapsed in the earthquake was demolished and removed