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Aceh News Update

20th February 2005





Temiar Web

Dear friends. The network of groups and individuals active in support of the tsunami affected communities has an opportunity to express its alarm over the relocation camps being implemented by the Indonesian government (however well-meant) ?if you would like to add your name and affiliation to this joint letter we will ensure that it reaches relevant UN, bilateral government aid organisation, NGO and Indonesian government officials.

If you support this letter please return your message immediately to peter.droege@newcastle.edu.au or droege@epolis.com.au

Urgent message and advice on tsunami resettlement in Sumatra: rebuilding communities - not relocation camps

We represent an international alliance to aid community rebuilding in Post-Tsunami Sumatra. Community rebuilding should take place as quickly as possible, to reduce individual and group psychological trauma, allow local sustained economic redevelopment to take place, and for infrastructure investments to be permanently useful.

We wish to expresses our alarm at the news that temporary resettlement camps in barracks are being planned, and that permanent solutions may also take place in camp-like forms. This would be a culturally inappropriate, and highly wasteful strategy from an aid allocation and investment point of view; and could be the making of permanent slums. Such camps are likely to deteriorate quickly, with their hapless, crowded inhabitants at risk of becoming the forgotten people of Aceh.

Instead, the energy, expense and expertise being planned on the temporary settlements should be be directed at the longer-term secure settlements. In addition, the first priority is to allow people to return to, or close to, the original location ?if they choose to do so, and if these original locations can be made secure. It should be possible to achieve a satisfactory and permanent outcome even sooner (or already, had this been done from the start). That means that the move to the secure locations could be affected at the same time as that likely to the temporary locations.

In a post-traumatic situation such as this, it is important that resettlement take place in the form of community rebuilding, and is seen as a communal learning and healing process ?and a process of gaining economic viability. New houses must not take the form of anonymous barracks shared with a large number of strangers of both genders. New forms of home need to consider the definition of family. In Aceh, many widowed wives or husbands now exist with only their remaining son or daughter, or surviving grandparents with their orphaned grandchild. Is it not appropriate to co-locate different families in crowded, passive conditions.

Appropriate forms of settlement are not found by designing a cluster or group of barracks. Even temporary shelters must deploy sustainable forms of energy provision, water provision and waste management ?not institutional solutions that require external administration. We urge the embrace of community design and development processes to be applied immediately.

Instead of building barracks, single room units should be built on secure sites as "starter units", using small contractors, working to a variety of individual designs, communally managed, with many community members also finding employment and training opportunities in the construction process. In this way the construction may even take less time, and without the need to bring in large trucks, and therefore to construct large roads, and it would also cost less than the barracks being proposed. These starter units would then provide the basis for the households to build their lives - make an investment for the future. Public buildings such as mosques, churches, schools, health centres and gathering halls should be designed and provided to anchor social activities. Under our recommended strategy, the schools and clinics being built would then also be in their permanent locations, and would not have to be dismantled when the populations need to be relocated once more.

We urge to immediately commence the process of active, community engaging rehabilitation in permanent community locations, and are ready to advise and assist in developing appropriate strategies, based on experience from similar conditions elsewhere.

Peter Droege U of Newcastle/NSW Planning Institute of Australia World Council for Renewable Energy

Babar Mumtaz Development Planning Unit University College London