JAKARTA, Dec 19 (Reuters) – More than 100,000 homes destroyed by the Indian Ocean tsunami have been rebuilt in Indonesia’s Aceh, although 3,000 families remain in temporary shelters, the head of the agency tasked with reconstruction said on Wednesday.
Monster waves hit the province of Aceh, which lies on the northern tip of Sumatra island about 1,700 km (1,000 miles) northwest of Jakarta, after a huge quake on Dec. 26, 2004.
The tsunami obliterated vast areas along the coast, leaving 170,000 people dead or missing in the province. Many thousands more were killed in other Indian Ocean nations.
Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of the state reconstruction agency, BRR, said progress had been “very encouraging and better than planned three years ago” with more than 102,000 homes built and another 20,000 due to be completed by June next year.
Mangkusubroto, a former mining minister, told Reuters in an interview that the agency was now focused on handing over recovery efforts to the locals, but conceded problems.
“This region has been in conflict for 30 years. We have to be realistic. For BRR, the priority is for the people to at least be able to continue maintaining and operating all these facilities,” he said, referring to the rebuilt infrastructure.
Aceh suffered three decades of fighting between the government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in which 15,000 people died. The conflict ended with the signing of a peace agreement in 2005, months after the tsunami.
The agency, whose mandate ends in April 2009, plans to get 3,000 families still in temporary wooden barracks surrounding the provincial capital Banda Aceh into new homes by next year.
Apart from houses, BRR has also coordinated and completed the reconstruction of about 2,000 km (1,240 miles) of roads, 800 schools, 600 hospitals and health centres, 17 seaports and 10 airstrips across the province by Nov 2007, he said.
The province is rich in resources ranging from natural gas to coffee, as well as yet-to-be-tapped potential in such areas as tourism, but the long-running conflict hindered the economy, and the tsunami dealt it another massive blow.
“Sadly, this is one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia,” Mangkusubroto said. “We have rebuilt what has been destroyed by the tsunami but the region needs much more attention to become one of the better provinces in the country.”
International agencies and countries have put $4.6 billion into the reconstruction of Aceh and Mangkusubroto said managing the funds in a nation where corruption is endemic had been hard.
“We are working in this kind of environment so we have to be extra careful in managing funds,” he said.
Last year, the agency came under fire after an Indonesian anti-graft group said there were financial irregularities in five BRR projects worth 23.9 billion rupiah ($2.54 million).
He said BRR had taken steps to minimise or eliminate graft.
Reconstruction efforts still faced technical challenges, such as getting building materials to Aceh’s isolated islands in the absence of finished ports, he said.
“Indonesians believe in 1,000 days of mourning. We’ve reached the final day of mourning and let us look forward to work as hard as possible to build our future.”
Wed Dec 19, 2007 6:35am EST
By Adhityani Arga, Editing by Ed Davies