6 years after quake, almost 2,000 families remain displaced

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Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post, Padang | Archipelago | Sat, March 28 2015, 10:59 AM

The government’s plan to resettle 1,903 families displaced by the 7.9-magnitude earthquake on Sept. 30, 2009, in West Sumatra, has again been delayed.

West Sumatra Manpower and Transmigration Office head Syofyan said the sluggish implementation of the resettlement program was due to the lengthy process of freeing up a 5,000-hectare forested area for new settlements.

“The permit was issued in 2013 after waiting three years,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

According to Syofyan, the Manpower Ministry had allocated funds for the initial stage of construction for 300 houses in 2013, but the project had started in 2014.

“The budget was disbursed in June, so contractors couldn’t work quickly due to the rainy season and the remote location. Consequently, the project was deemed a failure and we were penalized and not given further projects this year,” he said.

He added that he had sent a proposal for next year’s project.

If the government approves the budget to build 400 homes, added Syofyan, it would be for 50 percent of West Sumatra’s displaced, while the rest of the budget would be allocated to those displaced by the Mount Merapi eruption in Sleman, Yogyakarta.

According to Syofyan, the most difficult part of the project was the initial stage due to the remote location.

The displaced, whose homes are located on the mountain’s slope, were struck by a landslide triggered by the earthquake and some of them lost family members. Their houses are designated part of the red zone, in which new homes cannot be built.

Most displaced residents, found in Padangpariaman, Agam and West Pasaman regencies and Padang city, are staying with their relatives. In Tanjung Raya, Agam, 40 families are living in shelters.

The government has initiated a local program for displaced people to be resettled in five settlement units in the Sijunjung, Limapuluh Kota and Dahrmasraya regencies. However, the program has not yet been a success.

Maizon, the head of Tanjung Sani village, said the future of the program, which the government had promised to implement, remained uncertain. He believed that only a few of those who had registered would be interested in joining the program.

“Regarding options, each of the families have their own rights, but after looking at the conditions here, where roads and other facilities in our village are already good, they will definitely be reluctant to join the government program,” Maizon told the Post.

In Tanjung Sani village, the homes of 842 displaced families from four hamlets are located within the red zone. The placing of the hamlets in the red zone drew protests from the residents.

“The Agam administration has offered us relocation to Dama Gadang, located 37 kilometers away, but we refused. We want to stay here as most of us are fishermen and use Lake Maninjau,” he said.