PRESS STATEMENT: Ten Years After the Tsunami, Aceh Faces New “Development Disasters”

PRESS STATEMENT

Ten Years After the Tsunami, Aceh Faces New “Development Disasters”

10 years after the 2004 tsunami that claimed over 200,000 lives in Aceh, the province remains highly vulnerable to disasters.

At a Public Discussion held at the Hermes Palace Hotel on Saturday a panel of experts raised some of the issues. Panellists included Dr Ian Singleton (Anthopologist and Researcher from Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari/SOCP), Muhammad Fadil, S.T., M.T. (Kepala Bidang Perencanaan Pembangunan Sarana dan Prasarana, BAPPEDA Aceh), Mawardi Ismail, SH., M.Hum (Academic/Legal Expert Universitas Syiah Kuala) and Efendi Isma, S.Hut (Speaking on behalf of the Coalition Concerned for Aceh Forests /KPHA).

The panelists highlighted the fact that in just the past year, as of 24 December 2014, Aceh has experienced at least 70 major environmental disasters, comprising 21 landslides, 13 droughts, and 36 floods. Flash floods alone regularly cause massive damage to infrastructure in Aceh, even loss of lives, and immeasurable losses to local economies through destruction of crops and agriculture. There are currently more than 25,000 people displaced from the latest floods, in just the last 2 weeks, with 19,000 in Aceh Timur alone.

These disasters, exacerbated by unsustainable development projects, have multiple negative humanitarian, ecological and economic impacts, and undermine the billions of dollars of aid and investment that followed the tsunami. The scale of unsustainable development in Aceh indicates that poor planning and policies concerning resource and disaster risk management are largely to blame for many of these undesired consequences.

As pointed out by Efendi Isma, “The key concern now is the Province’s new spatial land-use plan “Rencana Tata Ruang Wilayah Aceh 2014-2034”, legalized at the provincial level as Qanun 19, also known as Qanun RTRWA. Although approved in Aceh, the Ministry of Home Affairs has highlighted numerous key points that must be amended before the plan can be approved by the national government. One of the main concerns is the fact that the Leuser Ecosystem is not even mentioned in the plan.”

“The Leuser Ecosystem is listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as one of the “World’s Most Irreplaceable Places”. It is an area of unparalleled biodiversity in the region and the only place in the world where the Sumatran orangutan, rhino, elephant and tiger can be found living together side by side. The Ecosystem also provides essential services: water for agriculture and regulates flooding as well as prevents soil erosion/landslides protecting the 4 million people living downstream of the area.  It is also a National Strategic Area for its Environmental Function, whose protection is required under National Law.” He added.

Marwadi Ismail, Fakultas Hukum, University of Syiah Kuala explained “By not even mentioning the Leuser Ecosystem the Qanun RTRWA is clearly breaching a number of National Laws, even Aceh’s own Governance Law. There are also irregularities in its development that should be examined and rectified as quickly as possible.”

Rather than ignoring areas like Leuser, that are protected for a reason, the Qanun RTRWA should instead represent a legal and political commitment by the Aceh government to protect its valuable forests and the essential services they provide.

Dr Ian Singleton, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme stated, “The old idea of environmental protection being against economic development needs to be quickly forgotten. Conservation is very much in the interests of long term sustained economic progress. It is indeed, however, against short-sighted, short-term over exploitation of resources for quick profits.”

The prospects of sustainable and inclusive development in Aceh are clearly being jeopardized by the Province’s Qanun RTRWA, unless it is immediately revoked or amended. Aceh is in a position to formulate a more future-oriented perspective, that equally integrates socio-economic and environmental aspects in its long-term development plan. The data is there already to do this, from a number of comprehensive and detailed reviews and environmental sensitivity analyses carried out in Aceh since the tsunami, but to date these have largely been ignored. A new land use plan is essential for Aceh to make real progress towards its ultimate goal of sustained, long-term economic development.

Contact details :

1. Mawardi Ismail, SH., M.Hum (Academic/Legal Expert, Universitas Syiah Kuala). Email: acehwardi@yahoo.com. Tel: +62 811 681704

2. Efendi Isma, S.Hut (Coalition Concerned for Aceh Forests /KPHA). Email: elang030108@gmail.com.  Tel: +62 813 6016055

3. Muhammad Fadil, S.T., M.T. (Kepala Bidang Perencanaan Pembangunan Sarana dan Prasarana, BAPPEDA Aceh). Tel: +62 852 60726077

4. Dr Ian Singleton (Anthropologist and Researcher from Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari/SOCP). Email: mokko123@gmail.com. Tel: +62 811 650491.

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About endoftheicons

The Leuser Ecosystem on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia is in grave danger. Local politicians want to allow logging, mining and palm oil plantations in this vulnerable area. Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers are already hanging on by a thread. They will not survive the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem.

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