Indonesia: BRR working hard but Acehnese remain unhappy

Nani Afrida, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh

More than two years after Banda Aceh was devastated by the 2004 tsunami, the agency handling much of the rehabilitation in the province has completed 44 percent of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam's road repairs -- but residents are still unhappy.

The Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) released statistics on their progress Wednesday showing they were on track for most tasks included in their four-year long commitment to rebuild Aceh.

But most of the Aceh roads damaged in the tsunami are located in the province's west coast and, despite reconstruction efforts, many residents have complained the roads "are still rocky and slippery when it rains".

"It's very difficult to pass through the Gunung Mancang Calang area when it rains ... our car could easily slip," local resident and driver Muhammad Ayar said.

The route passes through Mount Mancang and was built after the tsunami. The old highway was wiped out by the 2004 disaster.

Residents reported many vehicles, especially the L-300 public transportation vans, get stuck in large potholes whenever it rains.

Asyari said the Banda Aceh-Calang highway in Aceh Jaya regency was in a very poor state.

"People prefer to use the alternative route through Pidie to reach Banda Aceh instead of traveling through Aceh Jaya, despite the distance," he said.

"I don't know when this will end."

The Calang Meulaboh highway was built by BRR and the route was paved with assistance from the Japanese government.

But the planned Banda Aceh-Calang highway will be built by USAID.

Transportation problems have slowed the dispatch of building materials, especially for projects in west coast areas like Aceh Jaya.

BRR data released Wednesday shows 38.88 percent of schools, or 782 of the 2,006 schools damaged by the tsunami, have been rebuilt.

"Even though many are still to be rebuilt -- it doesn't mean students cannot attend school," BRR spokesman Tuwanku Mirza said from Banda Aceh.

The reconstruction of schools is being carried out by BRR, but the agency is receiving help from international relief agencies including UNICEF and the International Red Cross.

The construction of community health centers in Banda Aceh has exceeded all expectations with the number of centers now in excess of the national average, Mirza said.

"The health centers are even equipped with in-patient facilities."

BRR head Kuntoro Mangkusubroto said the agency had disbursed 81 percent (US$7.1 billion) of the total rehabilitation and reconstruction funds for Aceh and Nias.

"The funds have been committed by the Indonesian government, international donors and other relief groups," said Kuntoro, during the third coordination meeting for Aceh and Nias.

An estimated $6.1 billion is needed for the reconstruction process in Aceh and Nias; $4.5 billion for damages and material losses, $400 million for the Nias earthquake in 2005 and an additional $1.2 billion to offset the inflation rate.

Aceh Deputy Governor Muhammad Nazar reminded BRR to pay close attention to reconstruction projects and urged the agency to involve local administration to help control all works.