Monday, February 14, 2005

Crisis in Aceh ~ Rebuilding Aceh

A selection of coverage as part of "Crisis in Aceh" series that focus on recovery and reconstruction plan and process in Aceh. In chronological order and the highlights are mine.


Greater Focus Needed to Rebuild Tsunami-Hit Aceh
By Achmad Sukarsono

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Feb. 7 (Reuters) - Aid groups, foreign armies and Indonesian officials have prevented disease and starvation from engulfing tsunami-hit Aceh province, but closer cooperation is needed to rebuild shattered livelihoods, government and aid officials said.

Having escaped diseases such as malaria, measles and cholera, survivors of the massive waves that swept ashore exactly six weeks ago to kill nearly 115,000 people and leave another 130,000 missing are now looking for work.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is dark and sad," said David Nabarro, the World Health Organization's crisis chief, referring to Aceh's rebuilding.

Getting back to work is near the top of the priority list for Aceh's residents, including more than 400,000 living in makeshift outdoor camps after the magnitude 9 earthquake and accompanying tsunami washed away their homes on Dec. 26.

Many, including the province's fishermen, also lost their livelihoods. Rice paddies turned to swamps in what was one of Indonesia's least-developed areas even before the tsunami hit.

The U.S. and Australian military, Chinese healers, Scientologists and Islamic militants were among the various groups that flocked to help Aceh when the Indonesian government opened up the gas-rich province, where it has been fighting a near 30-year battle with separatist rebels.

The first target -- preventing a second wave of death from disease and starvation -- has been achieved. But aid officials say the logistical problems that have hampered distribution could stifle efforts to rebuild Aceh's infrastructure.

"We have prevented (disease) outbreaks by getting all the different groups to follow the same basic principle (supplying food, medicine and shelter)," Nabarro told Reuters on a trip to Aceh this week.

"But that was the easy part."

Bad Organization
Government data on Sunday showed there were 908 medical volunteers representing 85 international and local organizations currently in Aceh.

"To say the organization has been perfect would not be the truth," said James Lorenz, spokesman in Aceh for medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).

Officials said children in some camps had been vaccinated several times against measles and other diseases, while those in other camps had yet to be immunized.

Aid groups had also stockpiled food at certain camps but delivered nothing to others. Some camps had rice but no cooking equipment; others had cooking equipment but no rice, they said.

They also said extra surgeons were no longer needed in Aceh, as serious injuries had already been treated. What was needed instead are public health officials and midwives.

As survivors look to return to work, the main challenge is now to encourage closer cooperation between aid groups and the Indonesian government, the WHO's Nabarro said, to ensure vital tasks and scarce resources are better allocated.

In a sign this might be happening, the United Nations on Friday for the first time held its briefing at the government's mansions in Aceh, rather than on its own compound.

Indonesian officials consider it a positive sign that so many Acehnese appear willing to return to work.

"The spirit is climbing. People are lining up, asking for work," said Aceh's deputy governor, Azwar Abubakar, who lost his wife in the tsunami.

"Previously, we thought people were knocked down, messed up."

Aware that restlessness would soon affect those living in the camps, foreign relief agencies began hiring people to help with the clean-up weeks ago. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is one of several aid groups to launch employment programs expected to attract thousands.

"This will inject money into the economy immediately, as people will receive a daily wage," said Mieke Kooistra, the UNDP's spokeswoman in Aceh.

For grieving survivors, like 45-year-old Anwar Arifin, who lost his wife and four of his five children to the waves, the only way to move on is by working.

"After one month, I now feel the urge to build a new life," Arifin told Reuters earlier this week. (Additional reporting by Telly Nathalia)


Tsunami-hit Indonesia coast to get buffer zone
By Achmad Sukarsono

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Feb. 7 (Reuters) - Coastal cities in Indonesia's tsunami-hit Aceh province will be pushed back and protected from the sea by a buffer zone to prevent any repeat of the disaster that killed at least 114,000 people six weeks ago, a top urban planning official says.

Many residents of coastal areas demolished by the killer waves, which left another 130,000 people missing, may soon receive the unwelcome news they can never rebuild their homes in the same place.

"We are preparing a blueprint for the development of cities in Aceh. In two weeks, it will be finished," said Mawardi Nurdea, head of Aceh's urban planning and housing authority.

"Within a two-kilometre area from the shore, we will avoid building houses, offices, markets and shopping centres," he told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

Indonesia's government plans to divide the 2 km area into three zones, Nurdea said in his office, surrounded by buildings damaged by the magnitude 9 earthquake and the tsunami that followed on December 26.

The first zone, comprising mangroves, palm trees and pine trees, would be separated from the sea by breakwaters and extend 300 metres (1,000 feet) inland, he said.

The second zone, within which only fishermen would be permitted to live, would extend a further 1.6 kilometres inland and see construction of some power generators and infrastructure.

Trees would be planted in a third, 100-metre zone on the edge of Aceh's coastal towns and cities, said Nurdea, who is set to run as a candidate for the next mayor of provincial capital Banda Aceh, 1,700 km (1,060 miles) northwest of Jakarta.

The tsunami swept away the last mayor.

Malaysian Help
Engineers from Malaysia would perform a central role in rebuilding Aceh's cities, Nurdea said, but he denied reports Banda Aceh would be rebuilt in the style of Putrajaya, Malaysia's new administrative capital.

"We will not copy the Malaysian concept 100 percent, but they will add their experience," he said. "They have offered planners free of charge. With this help, Banda Aceh will become a beautiful city, but we want to maintain our own heritage."

Similar comments were made by Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was visiting Aceh on Monday.

Land clearing in coastal areas could present problems, as many coastal areas have said they do not agree with the buffer-zone concept.

Some have tried to rebuild their homes or have stuck flags in the ground to mark their property, while other groups have sent petitions opposing the relocation plan.

Nurdea said all residents would be treated fairly.

"People who used to stay on areas that can no longer be occupied will be relocated to places not too far from their original habitat," he said.

"We know they don't have ownership certificates, so we will compensate accordingly," he said.

Nurdea said the buffer zone was the most favoured of three alternatives for rebuilding Aceh. The others involved reconstructing houses in the same place as before, or relocating Banda Aceh 20 km from the shore.

"The preferred option is the buffer zone, where the waves will be broken by trees," he said.


Feb 08-14, 2005

Cover Story ~ Battling Over the Blueprints

PT Artha Graha has cancelled its plans to take part in re-designing the city of Meulaboh. The government is now interested in a concept put forward by Malaysia.

Following the earthquake and tsunami disaster that hit Aceh, Infantry Colonel Gerhan Lantara, Head of the Lilawangsa District Military Command, ended up with an additional routine task. Every evening at 8pm, Gerhan, accompanied by the Regent of Meulaboh Syahbudin B.P., held an evaluation meeting. Present at these meetings were not only regional officials and Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel, but also volunteers, foreign troops and even employees of
infrastructure companies such the public-listed telecommunications giant PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Telkom) and state-owned electricity company PLN. During these meetings, reports were made regarding all measures taken to handle the disaster related, from how many dead bodies had been recovered to promises of assistance made.

During one of these daily evaluation meetings in the first week of January, Syahbudin gave voice to his despondency. He did not know how to respond to donors who wanted to help reconstruction. "To date there are a number of donors who want to support the construction of 4,500 homes, as well as several mosques and schools," said Kiki Syahnakri, Head of the Artha Graha Care for Aceh Team, who coincidently was present at this particular meeting.

Offers of construction assistance were beginning to become a problem for Syahbudin because quite a few donors were asking about what construction locations were available and where. For example, one regional government official from West Java came to Meulaboh wanting to construct a two-storey school. This official, who was originally from Aceh, was even putting pressure on Syahbudin to also officially lay the first stone of the construction.

With 10 years' experience as Regent of Central Aceh, Syahbudin was fully aware that anything to do with city affairs had to have the blessing of the central government. And every attempt to deal with the powers that be in Jakarta was taking weeks rather than days. This was in spite of the fact that several donors wanted to know about locations that were available. Following the meeting, Kiki whispered to Gerhan regarding the existence of a team of experts from Artha Graha. "They were involved in the reconstruction of a city in the Philippines that was hit by tsunami waves," said Kiki. Gerhan then passed on Kiki's news to Syahbudin. "I can't speak directly to the regent because we've never been introduced," Kiki had said.

Syahbudin didn't have to think twice about accepting the offer. The acting Regent of Meulaboh then sent an official request for assistance to Artha Graha on January 11 this year. "The assistance asked for was not only the use of our experts but also at the same time financial assistance," said Kiki. Within only a few days the management of Artha Graha promised to fulfill the regent's requests. All Artha Graha asked for from the regent was that he first supplied details of what the local people wanted. "At that time, there was already the desire to clear out the land up to 500 meters from the shoreline," said Kiki.

Artha Graha then carried out initial preparations, including collecting aerial photos of Meulaboh before and after the tsunami from the Internet as well as seeking topographical maps from the Indonesian Army. "After that, we were waiting for input from the regent about what had to be done," said Kiki. Only after this input had been received, would Artha Graha send its team of experts to Meulaboh. However, this was plan was never in fact realized.

Towards the end of January, Syahbudin was actually saying the opposite to the mass media. "The Regional Government is awaiting assistance from Artha Graha. If by the end of January this has not arrived, then the Regional Government will have to reconsider its position," he said, as quoted by Agricelli from Tempo. However, when contacted on Friday last week, Syahbudin acknowledged that the planned cooperation with Artha Graha was on hold because "there were those in favor as well as those against."

Opposition to the cooperation began once Syahbudin announced that Artha Graha would be involved in creating the new Meulaboh blueprint. The Islamic Scholars Consultative Assembly (MPU) of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam was amongst those who opposed the cooperation. "We reject this totally," Tengku Muslim Ibrahim, Chairman of the Aceh MPU, told Badriah from Tempo at the end of January. The assembly rejected the cooperation because the plan was considered to be too hurried. Ibrahim said that the inference of a certain Acehenese proverb should be taken into account. This is similar to the proverb, "Much haste can result in much more waste."

Seemingly as if confirming the truth within this proverb, the plan has now already been scotched. "We have already withdrawn the plan. Now it's up to the government," said Kiki. The retired three-star general, whose last position was as the TNI Army's Deputy Chief of Staff, stated that from the very beginning Artha Graha had never intended to be involved in preparing the new blueprint for Meulaboh. "What we offered was a grand design," said Kiki.

What Kiki meant by a grand design only covered part of the whole area that makes up Meulaboh. "The aim was to temporarily accommodate physical assistance that had already been donated so that there would be no need to move anything once the planned city blueprint had been completed," he said at length. Kiki also corrected a report that had appeared in a national daily newspaper which said Artha Graha had already delivered a blueprint to the Regent of Meulaboh. "This was neither a blueprint nor a grand design, but rather a topographical map and aerial photographs," said Kiki.

Last week, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono explained that the blueprint for the reconstruction of the province of Aceh, including Meulaboh, would be completed by the government within the next two to three weeks. This blueprint which is currently being prepared will become the reference for making spatial layouts in other Acehenese cities, including Meulaboh. Minister of Public Works Djoko Kirmanto has appointed the Team for Implementing the Planned Community Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Aceh and North Sumatra (TR3MAS) to coordinate the preparation of the plan.

However, the government has not fully closed the door in terms of offers of assistance from overseas. "But these will have to be an integral part of the planned national program. There will be no work outside of this," insisted Djoko. Private sector concerns can be involved but this will be limited to consultants and project managers. "If anyone does want to provide assistance or input, then please do contact us," said Junius Hutabarat, Director-General for Design of Spatial Layout at the Department of Public Works. However, the matter of the blueprint, "is still the responsibility of the government," Junius explained.

As far as he could remember, Artha Graha did in fact offer assistance from its team of experts to the Design of Spatial Layout Directorate in the middle of January this year. "We welcomed this offer of assistance. However, we are still deliberating on whether or not the work will require any assistance from non-government parties," said Junius.

Artha Graha is not the only non-government party that wants to be involved in the planned reconstruction of Aceh. Domestically, the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) has also put forward a proposed concept for reconstructing cities in Aceh. The IPB Team is proposing that the government apply an agro-ecopolitan concept in the reconstruction of Aceh. Basically, this means reconstructing cities in harmony with the environment and at the same time providing support for agricultural activities.

There has also been interest from overseas to assist in the reconstruction of Aceh. Two of Indonesia's neighbors, Malaysia and Singapore, have both stated their interest in getting involved in the planned reconstruction of Aceh. Dr Tony Tan, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister as well as Coordinating Minister of Defense and Security, told President Yudhoyono of his country's wish when they met last week. However, details of the reconstruction model put forward by Singapore are still somewhat vague.

Minister Djoko has stated that the government is more interested in the offer put forward by Malaysia. Speaking by telephone about two weeks ago, Malaysian Prime Minister Badawi expressed his country's desire to help Indonesia in the reconstruction of Aceh. "They seem to be of one mind, as if they are both thinking along the same lines," said Djoko, who was then delegated by the president to return to Malaysia in the middle of last week.

This meeting of minds is an advantage for Malaysia because the majority of the people of Aceh want cities that are Islamic in nature. "But not like those in Iran or Afghanistan, where there is separation based on gender. We want the culture of Aceh to still be there," said Djoko. This desired Islamic nature is one that creates an atmosphere which makes Moslems feel safe. "It's easy to carry out one's daily Islamic prayers because there are many mosques and places to pray," cited Djoko. Cities like this will also include places of entertainment and recreation. "Not all places of entertainment are considered sinful, are they? Theaters and cinemas are permitted," said Djoko.

Djoko feels that the Malaysian government is not just being courteous in terms of this offer of assistance. When he met with the Malaysian Minister of Housing, Djoko was surprised how much data the ministry there had regarding Aceh. What is even more important, continued Djoko, "It's entirely up to us whether or not we use their plan. And there will be no costs involved." However, this does not automatically mean that the Malaysian blueprint will be the one that will be followed. "We are still comparing their blueprint with the one that we are preparing," said Djoko.

It seems that the eventual blueprint for Aceh could contain the government's plan to use zoning for spatial layouts in Acehenese cities. This means that regions will be split up based on specific functions. "Like a seashore zone for fishery and support industries," said Sujana Royat, who is both the Director for Spatial Layouts and Land Affairs at the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) as well as Chairman of the TR3MAS team. Then there are agricultural, housing, business and educational zones that will be located far from the sea.

However the blueprint is prepared, hopefully local companies will end up with the infrastructure projects. This would be different to what happened in Iraq, where, following the war, reconstruction projects went to foreign construction companies. "I'm inclined towards [choosing companies from] Indonesia.
Except in cases where overseas assistance comes with conditions that we are forced to comply with," said Minister Djoko. He promised to open the window of opportunity as wide as possible for local contractors, both state-owned as well as private sector. "However, don't start coming to me and asking for projects,"
said Djoko.

Thomas Hadiwinata, Hanibal W.Y. Wijayanta, Taufik Kamil and Nurlis E. Meuko


Not In Just Five Years
It will not be easy to start reconstructing the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam. Up to now, the damage suffered by this province is assumed to have reached US$4-4.5 billion (about Rp36-40.5 trillion). The damage includes around 1.3 million residences, 85 percent of clean water facilities, 92 percent of sanitation facilities, eight ports, a 120-kilometer-long road, 18 bridges and 20 percent of the electricity network.

Several problems, from administrative to funding matters, are also apparent, such as the relocation of people who have become the victims of the tsunami in Aceh. Around 400,000 people in this province have been forced to seek refuge due to the disaster. In relocating these people, many problems have occurred, including those of destroyed houses and the missing land stakes. The house or land certificates as well as other documents kept at the Regional Land Board were also destroyed or gone, carried away by the tsunami water.

The government predicted that Rp38.6 trillion would be required to build Aceh in the next five years (see the charts). If the government only depends on the State Budget for the reconstruction process in Aceh, the government will not be able to afford the process. Moreover, the predicted budget is yet to be finalized. The government is trying to solve these problems and it shall require a very, very long time. Such problems will not be gone in just five years. -- MT, Taufik Kamil

Losses Suffered in Aceh Disaster (Rp billions)

Water & Sanitation24730277
Irrigation System1.2298291.058
Industry & Trade1.5492.6044.153
Banking & Finance130-130

Reconstruction Funds for Aceh (Rp billions)

Social SectorEmergencyRehabilitationReconstructionTotal*
Spatial Layout4358529581.810

*Rehabilitation & Reconstruction

Stages in Reconstructing Aceh

Emergency relief
0-6 months

Rescue and humanitarian aid and missions
Emergency relief, rescuing
Burial of dead bodies
Supply of food and medicines
Repair of infrastructure and basic facilities
6 months-2 years

Rehabilitate the public service to a proper level
Infrastructure and public facilities
Economic facilities
Banking and finance
Treatment of trauma cases
Recovery on land rights
Law enforcement
Temporary housing
5 years

Empower the people and reconstruct the damaged areas
Economy (sectors of production, trade and banking)
Transportation system
Telecommunication system
Social and cultural order
Institution capacity


Feb 08-14, 2005

Cover Story

Acting Regent of West Aceh, Syahbudin B.P.:
"There is an agreement with Artha Graha"

Barely five months on the job as Acting Regent of West Aceh, Syahbudin B.P. has had to face very serious problems. The former Bureau Chief of the Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam provincial government had the formidable task of having to administer an area devastated by the December 26 earthquake and tsunami.

One-third of Meulaboh town, capital of West Aceh regency was destroyed. "Day and night I kept thinking of how I would rebuild this area," said Syahbudin, who was once Regent of Southeast Aceh for 10 years. As of last week, Meulaboh was still being cleaned up. Mountains of debris could be seen everywhere. The local economy hasn't quite recovered, but here and there small markets have begun to appear.

Children have begun going back to school, even if some of them must have their lessons under emergency tents. A number of government offices have begun operating, if only to gather the debris and clean up. Syahbudin figures West Aceh will be fully alive again in about a month. "But to return to the way we were before will take about five years," he said.

Syahbudin said he will find all ways to rebuild the area. This includes submitting the process of producing a blueprint of Meulaboh to Artha Graha, the business group led by Jakarta entrepreneur, Tomy Winata. Tempo reporter Nurlis E. Meuko interviewed Syahbudin by telephone last Friday. Excerpts:

Q: How bad is the destruction in West Aceh?
A: It's not like the initial reports, which cited 80 percent of the town being destroyed. The actual condition is about 35 to 40 percent destroyed. The worst cases are in Meulaboh, particularly the residential area on the coast, and the business center in Meulaboh.

Q: Have you figured out how much funds will be needed to rebuild West Aceh?
A: Not yet. We spent a lot of time getting temporary shelter for the people. About 13,000 homes were destroyed.

Q: What about the blueprint to rebuild West Aceh?
A: Actually, from earlier on we had an agreement with Artha Graha. He asked as to send him a letter requesting to revise the site plan of West Aceh and Meulaboh town. I sent that letter on January 11, and he has responded to the letter. He is ready to play a role. But there's been no follow-up.

Q: By him do you mean businessman Tomy Winata?
A: Yes. He has been here since about 10 days. We talked about the problem. He also brought food and clothes to be contributed. He also sent some volunteers to clean the town and evacuate bodies. We are very grateful.

Q: Why did it stop?
A: The problem is that a friction developed. Some support us, some don't. So, we stopped it. He had been involved from the start, pushed the project on and spent it on aerial photographs for the condition before and after the tsunami. The report is now in our hands.

Q: We heard you were the one who did not agree with Artha Graha?
A: That's not the way it went. In fact, I was the one to send a letter to Artha Graha to make a blueprint.

Q: So how will the blueprint proceed?
A: We cannot wait too long, it's very pressing. We are not like birds in a cage, if the bird was still there, we would have to prepare his needs. One of them is the blueprint. So that the construction of houses can be started, land must be secured. The source would be according to the blueprint. There are neighboring countries that are willing to help rebuild people's houses. So we made the Bappeda (Provincial Planning Development Board) useful by providing experts from here. They are from the Bandung Institute of Technology, University of Indonesia and North Sumatra University. We are using them to draft the West Aceh and Meulaboh site plans.

Q: Is it true the blueprint idea came from Kiki Syahnakri (Chairman of Artha Graha Cares for Aceh campaign)?
A: That is true. It originated from discussions that were not too serious. In the end, the discussion centered on the fugitives, followed up by some correspondence.

Q: With regards to the blueprint, there is an impression that the provincial government is going its own way without consulting with the central government.
A: That's not quite the case. In principle, what we can do, we do. While there are countries continually offering to help, we accept. Even a number of departments are willing to help. For example, the Public Works Department will help in building more than 1,500 houses, which we accept gratefully.


Feb 08-14, 2005

Cover Story ~ Can't Be Just One Party

Under normal conditions, there's nothing at all unusual about regional infrastructure in terms of preparing a master plan. According to Junius Hutabarat, Director-General for Design of Spatial Layout at the Department of Public Works, the procedure for preparing a master plan is regulated within Law No. 24/1992 regarding Spatial Layout. And in fact, implementation of this is further strengthened through the ramifications of Presidential Decree 47/1997.

These also fully detail the formulation of spatial layouts for islands as well as spatial layouts for provinces. So, according to Junius, full authority has already been handed over to the regions. "The formulation of spatial layouts is carried out at the provincial, not at the central level," he said. This was also confirmed by Tatag Wiranto, Deputy for Regional Development at the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas). "This authority is included in Law
No. 32/2004 regarding Regional Government," he said.

According to these regulations, plans regarding spatial layouts must be approved by the Regional Houses of Representatives (DPRD) involved in order that they can be passed into regional regulations. Up to now, provincial spatial layouts can also be transferred to regency or city level. But in reality, spatial layouts at regency and city levels must also fully conform to provincial planning so that everything is synchronous and there is no overlapping of any sort.

However, it does not mean that the central government has no single role in this matter. "We assist in providing guidance during the initial stages or working out that everything is in line with the standards laid down in the law," said Junius. While a master plan is still being prepared, input from all parties is accommodated.

Nurfakih Wirawan, Head of the Jakarta City Affairs Authority, gave examples based on his own experience. According to him, in preparing a master plan, topographical orientation for infrastructure construction has to be considered very thoroughly. For example, if one intends to carry out construction near the seaside, the architects involved must be careful to ensure that basic environment elements in the area are not in any way damaged. If this were to happen, then in the long run the environment would no longer be safe for housing.

In addition to topographical aspects, the culture of the local community and the housing density in the area must also be taken into account. "In any way, we can not neglect the aspirations of the local community," said Nurfakih. Because of this, communication between the regional government and the people of the local community is absolutely essential. This is to ensure that the locals get to see the master plan that has been made and have the opportunity to make their aspirations known. Once they have been approved, plans of this
sort are valid for between 10 and 15 years.

Every five years, regional governments have to carry out evaluations. The purpose of these, according to Nurfakih, is to see whether or not the assumptions that were made at the time the master plan was prepared are in line with what has actually happened. "There may have to be changes made, but on the other hand this might not prove to be necessary," he said.

Marco Kusumawijaya, a spatial layout specialist, pointed out that the process of preparing a master plan is a process that is open to the general public. In other words, decision about what goes where on a large construction blueprint cannot be made by just one party. The private sector can participate but not as the policy maker. "Those from the private sector could be consultants contracted by the regional government, but the process for the awarding of any such contracts must be via a tender."

Marco is worried that what happened at Meulaboh could actually happen again in terms of spatial layout plans in other regions. This is very much the sort of practice that took place on a regular basis during the New Order regime, when concessions were provided to private sector concerns in certain regions. At that time, developers had the right to determine spatial layout even as far as land acquisition was concerned. "The state can only decide what the land is to be used for," he explained, "however, it cannot say that this land may only be sold to Company A or Company B." -- Dara Meutia Uning


Rebuilding in Aceh to start next month - minister
By Dan Eaton

Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Indonesia hopes to begin large-scale rebuilding and infrastructure projects in tsunami-devastated Aceh province next month to take advantage of international sympathy and billions of dollars pledged by donors.

Alwi Shihab, the minister in charge of tsunami-hit areas, said a blueprint for rebuilding would be worked out in a meeting of local and national authorities at the end of the week.

"I think by March we will have that ready and start the work," Shihab told a small group of reporters late on Wednesday.

"We don't want to let the donors wait too long."

In addition to the massive human toll in Indonesia -- more than 230,000 people are dead or missing -- hundreds of kilometres of roads were peeled off the western coast of Aceh by the Dec. 26 tsunami.

More than a million buildings were damaged or destroyed, as well as dozens of bridges and other infrastructure, according to a report by the World Bank and the Indonesian government.

Shihab, who is coordinating minister for people's welfare, said the new Indonesian administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono elected last year was eager to dispel the country's reputation as one of the world's most corrupt.

Donors have expressed fears some of the funds pledged for reconstruction would be siphoned off by officials.

"Rest assured that the government is more concerned than the international community, because this is a test case for its integrity and its reputation," the minister said.

He said foreign donors would be encouraged to supervise the use of their funds directly, rather than channel it through the government.

Residents' opinions would be canvassed at a meeting on Friday to finalise reconstruction plans, he said.

"There will be a gathering of Acehnese people, scholars, experts, to get the aspirations in order to finalise the blueprint," Shihab said.

"Their aspirations, their input, is very important for the government to decide the blueprint, city planning, and what sort of characteristics they would like to see for their own area."

However, he said the government was wary of giving too much control to local authorities in the rebuilding.

"Yes, there was an idea of independent authority, but it has been dismissed," Shihab said.

"The talk is now (of) appointing a (local) project manager responsible to the governor and at the same time the public works minister maybe. So the local government will have something to say."

The United Nations said this week it was planning to lower its profile in Aceh now the emergency period had passed and the province prepared to enter the reconstruction phase.

U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Sumatra, Joel Boutroue, said the key to the success of the next phase was to get district and provincial authorities into the driver's seat.

Shihab said authorities were considering a plan to legislate against rebuilding homes too close to the sea.

"That's in the blueprint. There are talks about half a kilometre, 300 meters. Scientifically it should be viable and should be justified. You cannot just say 300 meters."

"A group of experts, including foreign experts (will) determine what is the advantage or disadvantage, what is the financial implication of taking away, lets say, one kilometre."

The minister said wherever possible, the government was working with the United Nations and aid groups to help get displaced people home.

"But not in Banda Aceh... in Banda Aceh (the waterfront) is almost flat. This is the (provincial) capital. You have to have good city planning. Its an opportunity to build anew," he said.

Asked if many refugees had already returned to areas that could eventually be part of a buffer zone to prevent wide-spread loss of life in the event of another tsunami, Shihab said:

"That's a very small in number. I don't think in Banda Aceh you'll find anyone who has moved."


Indonesia May Build Walls to Save Aceh from Tsunamis

Jakarta, Feb. 11 (Reuters) - Indonesia may build huge embankments in the tsunami-ravaged province of Aceh to prevent a repeat of the disaster that killed more than 117,000 people last December, Planning Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Friday.

She said the country may build the walls in coastal city buffer zones where there are also plans to plant mangroves and palm trees as natural protection.

"In a bid to anticipate another disaster... there will be a buffer zone with mangroves in the coastal areas and if necessary (we) build embankments," Indrawati told reporters.

An Indonesian government official said last week the government will not rebuild residential areas within a two-kilometer area from the shore in battered provincial capital Banda Aceh and other towns.

He said the buffer area would be split into a first zone comprising natural and artificial barriers to tsunamis, a second zone where only fishermen would be permitted to live, and a third zone with more natural barriers.

Mulyani said the blueprint to rebuild Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra island, would be completed by next month.

The latest Indonesian government figures on the tsunami show the total number of bodies found and buried in Aceh at 117,682, and list 114,897 as missing.


Aceh farmers may have to move inland after tsunami: UN
By Dan Eaton, Reuters

Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Many farmers in Indonesia's tsunami-hit Aceh province may never again be able to work their land, thousands of hectares of which are now coated with salty clay, U.N. agriculture officials said on Friday.

With some coastal land now unsuitable for rice crops, the government may have to consider moving surviving farmers to new areas, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) officials said after returning from a rapid assessment of farmland.

Some 20,000 hectares of wetland farms and 30,000 hectares of dryland were affected by the giant earthquake-triggered waves on Dec. 26 that left more than 230,000 Indonesians killed or missing, many of them farmers and their families, the officials said.

"There are large areas that are heavily silted and may not be able to be farmed again," David Hitchcock, an FAO farm systems development specialist, told Reuters after briefing Indonesian officials and non-government organisations.

"There is an option of moving further inland... It's a matter of the government saying 'here is the land'," he said, adding that many of the farmers closest to the coast may be among the dead.

Environmental groups have expressed concerns over the possible impact on forests and other natural habitats if people move inland as a result of the Asian tsunami.

Abundant Resources
However, Hitchcock said there was an abundance of resources in Sumatra and the main problem resulting from moving people could be social.

"They need to move voluntarily," he said. "I've never seen an island with so many resources... It's low-density farming."

FAO officials who were part of the assessment team said that in some valleys on the hardest-hit west coast of Aceh, the seawater had reached as far as five kilometres (three miles) inland.

Hiroshi Hiroaka, an FAO soil scientist, said that in parts of the east coast the sediment on top of farmland was thin, but that on the west coast it was as thick as 10 cm (four inches).

Physically scraping off that layer may not be practical, he said. Other options included remixing the soil, or changing the kind of farming practiced.

"Even if it would be technically possible to grow crops, the people are not able because the system was wiped out. There are no irrigation channels, no drainage channels, no roads," said Ronald Dijk, an FAO land and water management expert.

He said less than one third of the farmland on the west coast was immediately useable.

"On the west coast, upstream of rivers, where the land was not seriously damaged, it is possible to grow rice and off-season crops like beans, pulses and peanuts," Dijk said.

"It is less than one third of the area, where you can grow."

The FAO team classified the land into categories A to D, with A being minor damage, B moderate, and C severe. D has been reclaimed by the sea.

"For the West coast it is mainly C, with only a few hectares in A and B. I would say two-thirds C," said Dijk.

The FAO experts said the situation on the east coast of Aceh was more positive, with rains having leeched the soil of salt in some parts and farmers already returning to plant rice.


The Jakarta Post
Friday, February 11, 2005

Rebuilding Aceh: New Towns with New Hope
By Gordon G Benton, Jakarta [an architect and urban planner who has worked in the region for 40 years]

It is more than likely that there will be an unholy battle over the desolation in Aceh and North Sumatra on who is going to rebuild the infrastructure, towns and villages.

From reports and information gleaned from the media, it seems abundantly clear that Banda Aceh and the other towns destroyed by the tsunami on Dec. 26 cannot be rebuilt on what's left of these towns' foundations -- for that is what largely remains.

With such huge percentages of the populations killed whilst in their homes, in the streets or on the foreshore and beaches, how can anyone seriously consider building on what has become essentially a massive graveyard? Our compassion is for those that have died and our very real desire as human beings must now be to protect and save the survivors.

Secondly, on a less emotional, but rather more objective level, is the reality that any attempt to restore or rehabilitate the infrastructure and buildings on these urban sites would be both impractical and hugely expensive. Areas of the towns have been inundated with tsunami-borne sand and other jetsam; other areas where houses stood and roads ran, have been torn out and now lie under the sea.

The alternative is both a solution and an opportunity. There is an alternative to rebuilding these urban entities back on their own foundations, probably at less capital cost and at the same time offer the provinces new hope and peace of mind.

That is to rebuild on new selected sites, away from what must now be left a memorial park.

The government has powers of compulsory acquisition, alas seldom used, when it seemed to be important to do so. The process of course must be transparent and clearly carried out in a manner fair to the property owner and with regard to the well-being of the nation.

With a proper evaluation of each destroyed town or village, followed by a selection of sites for the relocation and settlement of the new town, the government, through its compulsory purchase powers, must designate the areas to be acquired.

Given the nature and extent of the catastrophe that has befallen the people of Aceh and North Sumatra, surely this process of the identification and design could be completed in three to six months.

The planning and building of the first critical phases of the townships could be such that the first settlers would be housed within 12 months-- in other words in 15 to 18 months from now.

This could be reduced to possibly nine months if temporary housing was to be built-- for later upgrading and/or used as a transit home. The simple 20 foot container can be adapted for everything from very simple abodes to sophisticated power plants and hospitals.

The new town locations do not need to be remote from the old. Indeed as the pain wears off, the survivors, as well as the new citizens, will want to walk over the old town area, perhaps to cry a little over the past or to be just reminded of the immense and sudden power of nature.

The original town sites could be designated as national memorial parks, which while retaining some of the remnants of the lost civilization, all would be landscaped to give walk- and cycle-ways, nature trails, giving back these relatively small but hugely significant pieces of Indonesia back to nature.

Mangroves would be replanted, indigenous trees and plants laid out perhaps in an arboretum concept-- not in a formal man-made regimented design but as if by the hand of nature. Indonesia has enough expertise to do a wonderful job here.

What about those who can prove ownership of a lot or part of the destroyed town? Or those who are relatives of these deceased land owners, or what about those who believe they own or have rights over a particular or property but have no documentation to back it up. There will be a great many in this last category. But there will be a number who will want to take advantage of the chaos to claim what was never theirs.

Whilst this will in may cases seem to be an almost impossible situation to resolve, much of the charity offered to those very people should and surely can be translated into a simple land-transfer offer? 'Socializing' is an Indonesian word that surely could be used here to good effect. Most of the criminals will be exposed by bonafide survivors.

The government has to set up what we could call an 'Urban Renewal Authority' -- a body which would orchestrate the urban plan, then prepare the individual lots -- for handing over to survivors (or whatever terms), and for sale to new settlers or for auction (appropriate for commercial lots).

This would not all happen at once but a start must be made immediately on site selection, land alienation, macro and micro planning. Whilst the government is well aware of its responsibilities in this crisis, it is my contention that the Indonesian private section professionals in urban planning, infrastructure and architectural design, site evaluation, sociological structures -- not forgetting local cultural, language and 'know-how' -- can and should be invited as important and pivotal partners in this immensely important work.

Many Indonesian firms today have had excellent experience in urban settlement design. They are now well used to working with overseas professionals offered specialized experience, and these would naturally be called up to aid in the work.

Can they be trusted with carrying out this task in an organized, responsible and effective manner, incorporating the latest urban technologies, whilst keeping in mind local concerns of course.

I have to say here that there must be leadership -- from those experienced in such work -- and an overall standards' code to which all professionals must adhere. This has to include clear rules on the handling of contracts and overall fiscal accountability.

Decisions on the provision of drinking or non-potable water for all, sewer treatment or septic tanks, traffic-calmed roads or a free-for-all, enforced building regulations or letting 'beggar thy neighbor' attitudes prevail, have to be decided from the start. And at this point, surely this is the one real opportunity to set a benchmark for all new developments in Indonesia.

How these development plans can be orchestrated, and, as importantly, how these hopefully modern townships are to be managed, can be the subject of another presentation, but there is a role there too for the professionals in the private sector.

From disaster can in this way come fortune for the people of Indonesia in general and Aceh and North Sumatra in particular. This extraordinary opportunity should not be lost, Indonesians' own expertise should not be forgotten under the glare of other more powerful interests?

The writer is an architect and urban planner who has worked in the region for 40 years. This is a personal view.

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