Nias reconstruction work criticized

Wednesday, December 28, 2005
By nias

Wednesday, December 28, 2005Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

The Nias regency administration lashed out at the Aceh-Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency on Tuesday for the lack of progress in rebuilding the earthquake and tsunami-ravaged island.

The administration said only 30 out of the 8,000 new houses planned for tsunami and quake survivors on the island had been completed.

Nias' deputy regent, Agus Mendrova, said on Tuesday the agency had done little for the survivors of last year's Dec. 26 tsunami and the magnitude 8.9 earthquake in March this year, which left thousands of people dead and homeless.

He said this lack of progress was what prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to cancel a planned visit to the island to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the tsunami.

"Can you imagine, it has been a year since the tsunami struck but only 30 houses have been built. Isn't that a joke? Of course the President's staff canceled his planned visit to inspect (the houses)," Agus told The Jakarta Post.

He blamed the agency for failing to communicate and coordinate with various offices and bodies, including the regency administration, resulting in the lack of progress in the reconstruction.

"As of today, there are thousands of survivors still living in tents for displaced persons. They need houses to live in since their houses were destroyed in the tsunami and earthquake," Agus said.

According to the latest data from the Medan-based non-governmental organization Policy Study and Advocacy Institute, there are about 20,000 tsunami and earthquake survivors still living in tents and military-style barracks in Nias and South Nias regencies.

The institute's executive director, Efendi Panjaitan, said the survivors were growing restless at the lack of progress in rebuilding their homes, and there have even been reports of the survivors stealing relief aid from NGOs.

He said such actions were mainly the result of less and less food aid being delivered to the island by relief organizations.

"Reducing the amount of relief aid was not intended to neglect the survivors but to make them independent, no longer reliant on relief aid," Efendi told the Post on Tuesday.

Reports of relief aid being stolen, along with a lack of transportation on the island, has left many volunteers reluctant to go to Nias, he added.

The Aceh-Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency's head for Nias, William Syahbandar, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. He has previously blamed transportation problems for the slow pace of reconstruction on Nias.

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