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Aceh gets back on its feet

An army of workers rebuilds a cement plant once strewn with bodies. A four-lane highway slowly takes shape along a coast shattered by giant waves.

world Updated: Dec 26, 2007 00:59 IST

An army of workers rebuilds a cement plant once strewn with bodies. A four-lane highway slowly takes shape along a coast shattered by giant waves. Roof tiles on new houses and schools glint in the tropical sun.

After the tsunami struck three years ago, the world pledged some $13.6 billion to house and feed survivors and rebuild devastated coasts. The results of reconstruction are visible along the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province, the region hit hardest by the December 26 disaster. Some of those involved are calling it a model of post-disaster reconstruction.

“The developments on the ground are very pleasing,” said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of the government reconstruction agency. “I would say we are around 80 per cent complete.”

Some fear a hard landing when major reconstruction work comes to an end around mid-2008.

“This is dangerous, it is like a bubble,” said Zainul Arifin, head of Aceh’s investment board. Like many, he earned thousands of dollars renting his house to a western aid agency. “When the UN and the aid groups leave, we have to be ready with new livelihoods.”

The money that has built roads, schools and more than 100,000 homes has also powered local economies.

Indonesia had an added benefit: The tsunami jolted the government and a rebel movement in Aceh into signing a peace pact after decades of war that killed 15,000 people.