JAKARTA, Indonesia , April 27, 2005 (ENS) - Indonesian officials have endorsed a set of WWF recommendations for environmentally sustainable reconstruction as the country moves to rebuild areas of Aceh province shattered by the December 26, 2004 earthquake and resulting tsunami. The undersea earthquake off the northwest coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered tsunami waves that claimed the lives of more than 200,000 in 11 Indian Ocean countries.
World Wildlife Fund in Indonesia and the United States released the reconstruction guidelines on Tuesday. Covering issues from coastal zone management to strengthening local institutions, the guidelines focus on the use of responsibly sourced building materials, especially timber.
'This document will become the guidelines for Aceh's sustainable reconstruction,' Azwar Abubakar, the acting governor of Aceh, said in his preface to the green reconstruction guidelines.
'They will be a reference for donors and development agencies so that their contribution to developing Aceh is undertaken in a manner that minimizes the negative impacts of the reconstruction process on Aceh's environment and natural resources,' Abubakar wrote.
Developed in consultations with public and private sector groups, aid agencies, relief organizations and local stakeholders, the WWF guidelines call for an integrated reconstruction plan incorporating the use of responsibly sourced building materials and the creation of sustainably managed fishery, agricultural and aquaculture industries.
'No matter how urgent the need is to use our land for various purposes, ecosystem health and nature conservation should be our main concern, especially in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh after the tsunami,' wrote Governor Abubakar.
'It is necessary to have guidelines for a policy that requires Aceh, as well as other regions in the world, to be managed in accordance with ecological principles known as “green reconstruction. We are grateful for WWF-Indonesia's awareness of this, and for WWF Indonesia's initiative in formulating Green Reconstruction Policy Guidelines,' he wrote.
At least 1.1 million meters of sawn timber will be needed for reconstruction over the next five years and only a small fraction of that demand can be met by legal logging in Indonesia, WWF points out.
'Unless the gap can be filled by imported timber, pressure to close it will fall squarely on the rainforests of Sumatra, where illegal logging will lead to widespread deforestation and, in turn, to further disasters like landslides and flooding,' said Mubariq Ahmed, executive director of WWF-Indonesia.
Indonesia has lost 40 percent of its forest cover over the past 50 years, because of extensive logging practices, and many illegal loggers.
To meet the urgent need for imported wood for reconstruction, WWF-Indonesia, along with Conservation International-Indonesia and the local research institute Greenomics, founded Timber for Aceh, a program that has since grown into a multi-stakeholder initiative supported by the Indonesian government and a broad range of public and private sector agencies and groups.
The groups are asking donors to contribute sustainably logged timber to help rebuild Aceh and at the same time avoid further damage to Indonesia's stressed forests. Sustainable timber will be used in rebuilding of houses, schools, hospitals and the region's fishing fleet.
The WWF guidelines supplement, and propose ways to implement, the federal master plan for reconstruction announced earlier by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
'President Yudhoyono and Governor Abubakar both make the connection between rebuilding and the need to preserve the natural riches of Sumatra,' WWF-US President-elect Carter Roberts said. 'They want to re-build the right way, using environmental protections to lay the foundation for a durable and prosperous economy.'
The WWF guidelines 'will help provide natural defence barriers against future tsunamis and extreme weather events,' said Ahmed.
'The extensive conversion of coastal mangroves to shrimp ponds had already depleted Aceh's natural defense systems before the tsunami hit, compounding its impact. It is vital that we don't make the same mistakes of the past,' he said. 'We need to rebuild Aceh in a sustainable and safe way for the future well-being of Aceh's people.'
Within the context of a national recovery and restoration strategy, the Green Reconstruction Policy Guidelines for Aceh set forth four general cross-cutting policies that are viewed as fundamental to successful implementation of any post-tsunami reconstruction activity, whether in the form of setting policy or carrying out activities on the ground.
Together, these four principles provide for achieving sustainable development, through effective management of the natural resource base of social and economic development.
- Mainstreaming environment: Environmental concerns should be integrated into all aspects of reconstruction activities and strategies including through aiming to improve the quality of life for communities and affected individuals whilst minimising the negative impacts of reconstruction on the environment and maintaining the longterm biological diversity and productivity of natural systems.
- Building strong legitimate local institutions: Recovery from the socio-economic, cultural and livelihood impacts of the tsunami will be strengthened by building strong local institutions such as the Panglima Laot, and making them self-reliant in carrying out sustainable development programs to enhance their well-being and ensure environment sustainability.
- Following a spatial plan: An overall spatial plan should ensures that reconstruction efforts have minimum negative environmental impact and promote positive choices during the reconstruction process that optimize environmental goods and services as well as development and livelihood opportunities.
- Building good governance: The governance of the reconstruction process - including planning, implementation and evaluation - should be transparent, accountable and include the effective participation of local communities.
WWF's Green Reconstruction Guidelines for Aceh can be found at: http://www.worldwildlife.org/aceh
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