At least 25,000 poor and landless families in Aceh, Indonesia have yet to be re-housed nearly two years after the Indian Ocean tsunami swept their homes away and destroyed their land, the international aid agency Oxfam said Thursday in new report on the progress of recovery from the disaster.
Aceh, the northern province of the island of Sumatra, was the region worst affected by the tsunami of December 26, 2004. Some 169,000 people were killed, 600,000 were left homeless and 141,000 houses destroyed.
On Thursday, Oxfam issued a new report, "The Tsunami Two Years On: Land Rights in Aceh," and urged the Indonesian government to find a fair and just way of re-housing the landless. There are 70,000 people living in around 150 barracks across Aceh - temporary buildings where "many families live in cramped, often unhygienic conditions," Oxfam says.
The Indonesian government aims to title 600,000 plots of land through the Reconstruction of Aceh’s Land Administration System, RALAS. But by mid-2006 RALAS had only issued 2,608 land certificates.
Aceh is the largest reconstruction project in the developing world. The government has said it intends to build 128,000 houses for displaced people, but up to November, only 48,000 houses had been built in Aceh.
"The lack of a clear policy for landless people has led to a huge amount of uncertainty and delay," said Jeremy Hobbs, director of Oxfam International. "There’s a risk these people will end up in the slums of the future, despite the huge amounts generously given after the tsunami."
Around 10,000 s that owned property before the tsunami now need resettling because their land became submerged or was ruined. But many land ownership documents were destroyed by the enormous wave of water following an earthquake off the Sumatran coast.
"Rebuilding homes without knowing who owns the land could create problems in the future," said Hobbs. "But this can be a desperately difficult and slow process."
The Indonesian government has bought 700 hectares of land for them but progress is slow – only 700 houses have been built and occupied.
The tsunami had a more positive effect on the political and military situation in Aceh. On December 11, Aceh voters go to the polls in the first direct elections for governor and district chiefs in the once rebellious province. The tsunami prompted the rebels and the government to sign a peace agreement in 2005 that ended three decades of conflict and paved the way for the December 11 elections.