Rebuilding Lives after the Asian Tsunami

ADB gained valuable expertise from the 2004 Asian Tsunami on how to reconstruct communities under difficult conditions.

The 2004 Asian Tsunami brought unprecedented devastation to the hardest hit communities, particularly in Indonesia. In some areas, literally every structure was destroyed, along with every tree. The maps that showed property lines were destroyed, as were land titles, birth certificates, and other identity papers.


View a photo essay on the reconstruction of traditional houses in Nias, Indonesia

Under these conditions, ADB took a lead role in a vast reconstruction program that required not only rebuilding communities from scratch but also re-thinking old ideas about community planning and helping people to restore their legal paperwork.

ADB’s experience from the tsunami reconstruction showed that close collaboration with government agencies and development partners is essential. Active participation of stakeholders, particularly the affected communities, is also necessary in designing the reconstruction program.

ADB’s experience from the tsunami reconstruction showed that close collaboration with government agencies and development partners is essential.

What’s the lesson?

ADB found the community-based approach effective in rebuilding homes in Indonesia. For instance, on the island of Nias, off the coast of Sumatra, ADB made community contracting a major cornerstone of its reconstruction efforts after consulting the people. This approach resulted in reconstruction funds reaching the affected communities directly, providing job opportunities within the villages. It helped preserved the island’s rich architectural heritage by using traditional designs while making the houses better equipped to withstand earthquakes.

Community contracting also helped in facilitating procurement of materials and in overcoming issues related to fluctuating material costs. It allowed the project to stay within budget.

Rebuilding Lives and Homes in Aceh and Nias, IndonesiaDownload: Rebuilding Lives and Homes in Aceh and Nias, Indonesia

Another type of community contracting was successfully applied after the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan where project beneficiaries received cash grants, training in seismically safe construction, and other necessary assistance to help them rebuild their own houses.

In Aceh, located in the northern tip of Sumatra, aside from working with the Indonesian government, ADB also partnered with non-government organizations and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), which served as implementing agencies. This approach helped speed up implementation.

The housing program in Indonesia took more than 3 years to complete. The project team recommended that ADB disaster-related assistance projects be planned as initiatives of relatively long duration (4 to 5 years) to take into account delays and difficulties.

Empowering people after natural disasters

Another important lesson from the tsunami was that helping people resolve legal issues is an important part of the overall rehabilitation and reconstruction. ADB’s experience in its Post-Tsunami Legal Assistance, Governance, and Anticorruption Project in Sri Lanka showed that empowering people after a natural disaster by giving them access to their rights and entitlements allows them to reconstruct the legal foundation for their lives and livelihoods.

Another important lesson from the tsunami was that helping people resolve legal issues is an important part of the overall rehabilitation and reconstruction.

In Sri Lanka, thousands of lives were lost and homes, schools, hospitals, roads, and other infrastructure were damaged by the Asian Tsunami. The estimated cost of the damage was $1.5 billion.

The ADB-supported project assisted the government in addressing the legal and documentary problems of 80,000 tsunami survivors and in confronting the greater risks of corruption associated with the large scale of assistance that poured into the country. Among the documents that the people needed to recover were birth and marriage certificates, identity cards, and land titles. These documents are needed to access a range of services and benefits, including housing resettlement.


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Decentralizing government services to address justice and legal issues was effective in resolving many of these problems. The project involved national institutions while also encouraging the participation of local officials who have direct access to the people.

The project established legal assistance offices in tsunami-affected areas and special mediation boards to handle dispute over issues that arose as a result of the tsunami. It also strengthened the government’s anticorruption drive among other initiatives.

A similar approach was used after the Pakistan earthquake in 2005. The project helped 30,000 people rebuild their lives.

 

Dealing with the consequences of Super Typhoon Haiyan

In the areas in the Philippines hit hard by Super Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda), ADB will bring these lessons to bear. ADB stands ready to provide a $500 million quick-disbursing program loan to help post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction. It will work with bilateral and multilateral development partners for timely and effective reconstruction.