Water Journal : Water Journal December 2012
operations technical features 78 DECEMBER 2012 water sea, there is not much available land for reconstruction besides the flat area near the coastline, which was inundated by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The reconstruction plan for water infrastructure cannot be developed while the overall master plan for the city’s reconstruction is still being decided. Lessons Learnt Since the Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan last year, many water agencies are now reviewing their emergency response manuals. Besides earthquakes, there have been typhoons, floodings and electricity shortages due to the stoppages of almost all the nuclear power plants around Japan caused by strong anti-nuclear sentiments among Japanese people. Through the experience of the rescue effort in Minamisanriku, nine suggestions for consideration have been made for the preparation for future emergencies: 1. Strong leadership The strong leadership of the water bureau’s general manager was indispensable. Many decisions had to be made quickly under extraordinary circumstances with a lack of information. It was often difficult to identify what was right and wrong, and the ability to make decisions under these stressful conditions and lead people through these decisions was invaluable. 2. Preparation of an emergency office In Minamisanriku, the office of the water bureau was swept away by the earthquake and tsunami. Computers, documents and historical data were completely destroyed. A temporary prefabricated container house was used as the emergency office as a mutual coordination point. 3. Securing staff Fortunately, all staff survived the catastrophe, but the workload during this time was proportionately larger than ordinary operations. Besides the recovery work, staff were required to respond to inquiries from concerned citizens. It is, therefore, very important to form agreements with neighbouring cities and companies to effectively handle the workload presented in emergency situations. Such agreements should be made prior to the occurrence of disasters and should be accompanied by regular audits of whether these cooperation commitments can be met in times of need. 4. Securing cars and heavy machinery Many cars were swept away by the tsunami and it was difficult to conduct work without them. The importance of heavy machinery to move debris from the street and conduct repair works is also evident in emergency situations. Again, the availability of heavy machinery on short-term notice should be considered prior to the event of an emergency. 5. Securing generators and fuels As the electricity was out for more than one month after the earthquake, most of the recovery work relied on fuel-powered generators. Also, due to weather conditions, including snow in March and April, fuel for heaters was important in the city. 6. Securing communication tools With telephone lines destroyed by the tsunami, both mobile phones and landlines were not functioning. The only communication tool that worked was a satellite phone. 7. Securing emergency water tanks As the water distribution network was destroyed, the distribution of water had to rely on the manual transportation of water to people. However, not many people had the necessary tanks to carry water. Water carrier trucks, water storage tanks and emergency drinking bags were necessary. 8. Resilient IT system (data storage and management) All the computers and stored data were swept away. This is one of the reasons that made the recovery process difficult and slow. It is, therefore, important to store data and have data backups in remote servers. 9. Good partners It is important to have emergency support agreements with neighbouring cities and companies with financial and technical strengths to assist in times of need. These relationships should be developed and nurtured on an ongoing basis in order to receive the best help in times of need. The Veolia Foundation In future, in the unfortunate event of another natural disaster, Veolia Water has an in-house body, the Veolia Foundation, which has financial and human resources, as well as an international team of volunteers coordinated by a dedicated central team (the VeoliaForce) that are ready to be deployed and have readily- available equipment. While the magnitude of the Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami meant that deploying these units was difficult, the Veolia Foundation and its people can help with displaced people and the delivery of emergency food and water, as has been demonstrated in Sichuan, China and Haiti, for example. Acknowledgements I would like to thank all those in the Veolia Environment and Veolia Water group who supported this project, including Nishihara Environment, Fuji Subsurface Information and Veolia Water Solutions and Technologies. In particular, I would like to express sincere gratitude to the residents of Minamisanriku; even in the midst of their own personal hardships, they always made sure we had adequate accommodation and food. We are deeply grateful for their warmth, kindness and generosity. The Author Toshio Kyosai (email: toshio.kyosai@ veoliawater.co .jp) received his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Waseda University in Japan, and his master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from University of California at Berkeley. He joined CH2M HILL in 2001 and worked on various water resources projects in California. In 2006, he returned to Japan and joined Veolia Water Japan. He is registered as a professional engineer both in the USA and Japan. References Minamisanriku City (2011): 2011 Minamisanriku City Water Quality Analysis Plan (in Japanese), Minamisanriku City, Japan. Minamisanriku City (2011): Mayor interviews (in Japanese), Minamisanriku City, Japan. Minamisanriku City official website, as of 19 July 2012 (in Japanese). www.town.minamisanriku. miyagi.jp/ Figure 9. Mobile desalination unit.
Water Journal February 2013
Water Journal November 2012-1