(Reissued as received.)
JAKARTA/NAIROBI, 21 June (UNEP) - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Indonesian State Ministry of Environment are calling for an environmentally sound reconstruction programme in tsunami-affected areas of Indonesia.
The Indian Ocean tsunami created millions of cubic metres of waste and debris, devastated critical environmental infrastructure and damaged ecosystems that provide both life and protection for coastal livelihoods in Indonesia. The costs of these damages are estimated to be more than $600 million, and will take years to restore.
Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director, said: "The tsunami in the Indian Ocean taught the world some hard, shocking but important lessons which we ignore at our peril."
"We learnt in graphic and horrific detail that the ecosystems, such as coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses, which we have so casually destroyed, are not a luxury. They are lifesavers capable of helping to defend our homes, our loved ones and our livelihoods from some of nature's more aggressive acts", he added.
"They are also instrumental, in less devastating times, of supplying communities with goods and services that underlie prosperity and help humankind overcome poverty. So they have an important role in assisting us in realizing the Millennium Development Goals and delivering a more stable, healthy and prosperous world", said Mr. Toepfer.
"It is, therefore, vital, that during the reconstruction of shattered coastlines and settlements, the environment is taken into account along with the economic and social factors", he added.
UNEP, the Indonesian State Ministry of Environment and national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are holding a conference from 21 to 23 June in Banda Aceh, in Indonesia, to discuss how good environmental practices and policies can be integrated into the reconstruction plans in tsunami- and earthquake-affected areas in Aceh and Nias. The conference will explore the need to learn from expertise and experience from within the Aceh region itself.
Rachmat Witoelar, the Indonesian Environment Minister, said that by holding the "Green Aceh Conference" "we are bringing international solidarity on Aceh to a real and meaningful implementation of sustainable development here."
Recently the Governor of Aceh, Azwar Abubakar, declared that Aceh would be designated a Green Province, with 40 per cent of its area to be protected as limited utilization areas, so that the need to obtain timber for reconstruction does not destroy remaining forest areas.
Immediately after the Indian Ocean tsunami, UNEP established a task force to respond to urgent requests for technical assistance from affected countries, including from Indonesia. The Ministry of Environment and UNEP initiated environmental assessments in the tsunami-affected areas and have mobilized assistance to strengthen environmental planning and guidance to the response and reconstruction process.
The conference in Aceh focuses on practical steps for reconstruction in an environment-friendly manner. The topics in question are:
- The Urgency for Green Reconstruction in Post-Tsunami Aceh;
- Spatial Planning, Settlement, Infrastructure and Energy;
- Housing and Building Material;
- Coastal and Sustainable Fisheries Management;
- Forestry and Sustainable Agriculture Management;
- Waste Management, Water and Sanitation;
- Community Participation, Monitoring and Local Laws
The Conference is being attended by local and national government agencies, local and national parliamentary members, donor agencies, community organizations, local, national and international NGOs, local and national professional associations, local private sector, and local and national media.
An exhibition of environmental designs for houses, public buildings and other installations, as well as documentation of environmental initiatives are on display during and after the Conference. The exhibition is being held at the Dayan Dawood Auditorium, Syiah Kuala University Campus, Banda Aceh.
Pasi Rinne, the Chairman of the UNEP Tsunami Task Force, stated that "the Government and a number of national and international partners are very committed to the environmental recovery, but further international assistance is needed to meet the priority recovery needs. UNEP stands ready to offer help now and in the future to those countries concerned. In Indonesia, UNEP now aims to work with Government to encourage and promote better environmental practices and planning in the affected districts."
For more information, please contact: Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, Office of the Executive Director, Nairobi, tel.: +254-20-62-3084; mobile: +254 733 632-755, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or Elisabeth Waechter, UNEP Associate Information Officer, tel.: +254-20-62-3088, mobile: +254-720-173968, e-mail: email@example.com.
Additional information on UNEP's post-tsunami work is available at www.unep.org/tsunami.
In New York, contact Jim Sniffen, Information Officer, UNEP, tel: +1 212 963-8094/8210, firstname.lastname@example.org.