Tsunami-hit Indonesia coast to get buffer zone

By Achmad Sukarsono

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Coastal cities in Indonesia's tsunami-hit Aceh province will be pushed back and protected from the sea by a buffer zone to prevent any repeat of the disaster that killed at least 114,000 people six weeks ago, a top urban planning official said on Monday.

Many residents of coastal areas demolished by the killer waves, which left another 130,000 people missing, may soon receive the unwelcome news they can never rebuild their homes in the same place.

"We are preparing a blueprint for the development of cities in Aceh. In two weeks, it will be finished," said Mawardi Nurdea, head of Aceh's urban planning and housing authority.

"Within a two-kilometre area from the shore, we will avoid building houses, offices, markets and shopping centres," he told Reuters in an interview.

Indonesia's government plans to divide the 2 km area into three zones, Nurdea said in his office, surrounded by buildings damaged by the magnitude 9 earthquake and the tsunami that followed on Dec. 26.

The first zone, comprising mangroves, palm trees and pine trees, would be separated from the sea by breakwaters and extend 300 metres (1,000 feet) inland, he said.

The second zone, within which only fishermen would be permitted to live, would extend a further 1.6 kilometres inland and see construction of some power generators and infrastructure.

Trees would be planted in a third, 100-metre zone on the edge of Aceh's coastal towns and cities, said Nurdea, who is set to run as a candidate for the next mayor of provincial capital Banda Aceh, 1,700 km (1,060 miles) northwest of Jakarta.

The tsunami swept away the last mayor.


Engineers from Malaysia would perform a central role in rebuilding Aceh's cities, Nurdea said, but he denied reports Banda Aceh would be rebuilt in the style of Putrajaya, Malaysia's new administrative capital.

"We will not copy the Malaysian concept 100 percent, but they will add their experience," he said. "They have offered planners free of charge. With this help, Banda Aceh will become a beautiful city, but we want to maintain our own heritage."

Similar comments were made by Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was visiting Aceh on Monday.

Land clearing in coastal areas could present problems, as many coastal areas have said they do not agree with the buffer-zone concept.

Some have tried to rebuild their homes or have stuck flags in the ground to mark their property, while other groups have sent petitions opposing the relocation plan.

Nurdea said all residents would be treated fairly.

"People who used to stay on areas that can no longer be occupied will be relocated to places not too far from their original habitat," he said.

"We know they don't have ownership certificates, so we will compensate accordingly," he said.

Nurdea said the buffer zone was the most favoured of three alternatives for rebuilding Aceh. The others involved reconstructing houses in the same place as before, or relocating Banda Aceh 20 km from the shore.

"The preferred option is the buffer zone, where the waves will be broken by trees," he said.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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