Tokyo disaster officials plan to remove power poles from remote islands

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The Tokyo Metropolitan Government aims to remove all utility poles from remote Pacific islands to avoid power outages caused by typhoons, officials said.

The metropolitan government will select a test island for research in fiscal year 2022, which ends in March next year, with the aim of making Tokyo’s remote islands free of utility poles by the 2030s.

It is currently working on burying power cables underground, from a landscape and disaster prevention perspective, leaving 52 percent of prefectural roads in its 23 wards without power poles by the end of fiscal 2019.

The situation is however completely different in the remote islands of the Izu and Ogasawara ranges.

There are up to about 3,200 utility poles run by the metropolitan government alone on 11 inhabited islands in the chains, and many more are run by local towns and villages.

The slow progress in the removal of utility poles is the result of a lack of available space to install electrical transformers due to narrow roads, as well as higher construction expenses, and the necessary materials must be transported by Sea route.

Additionally, many roads on the islands are paved with concrete, which means it takes more hours and money to remove utility poles compared to roads covered with asphalt.

In 2019, strong winds from Typhoon Faxai toppled utility poles on Oshima and Niijima in the Izu island chain, causing power outages and communication disruptions.

In addition to typhoons, the islands of Tokyo are expected to face severe damage in the event of a huge earthquake in the Nankai Trough on the Pacific coast.

“It’s now or never to prepare for disasters,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said in April, adding, “It’s extremely important to remove power poles from remote islands.”

On the test island, the metropolitan government will also examine the best way to bury gas and water pipes underground and ways to reduce costs.

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