ADB, Partners to Begin Needs Assessment Surveys in Tsunami Afflicted Zones

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (7 January 2005) - ADB and its development partners will tomorrow begin sending out teams of experts to assess the extent of damage brought about by the tsunami, a process that will lead to a plan for reconstruction in Indonesia, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. ADB has pledged up to $675 million to help reconstruction efforts in the three countries.

A joint team from ADB and the World Bank will begin its work tomorrow in Maldives, where about 100,000 people, or 35% of the population, have been severely affected by the tsunami. The Islamic Development Bank will be joining the mission in the next few days. The mission is expected to work closely with local leaders and other development partners, particularly the United Nations, in the coming two to four weeks.

"Even as relief and rescue operations continue in our midst, we must now begin our longer-term task of helping these countries rebuild their ravaged infrastructure," says Richard Vokes, Director of ADB's Operations Coordination Division in its South Asia Department.

The ADB experts will focus on transport and telecommunications infrastructure, water supply and power requirements, while the World Bank experts will focus on education, health and housing needs. ADB has initially identified $15 million in uncommitted funds for Maldives to be used to assist with urgent needs.

In Indonesia, ADB has tentatively estimated that uncommitted funds of up to $126 million can be reprogrammed and made available for immediate assistance in the affected areas. Follow up support for medium term rehabilitation and reconstruction and the modality of such support will be determined by the emerging needs.

ADB is closely involved in the joint Government-development partners damage and needs assessment that began earlier this week for Aceh and North Sumatra, where nearly 100,000 people have perished. A team composed of staff from ADB's headquarters and its Indonesia Resident Mission has been fielded in the country, bringing expertise in several areas, including water and sanitation, health, transportation, and rural infrastructure.

This team is already working closely with line ministries and other donors. The joint assessment aims to have initial findings ready prior to the 19-20 January meeting of the Consultative Group on Indonesia. Missions to Aceh will be launched in coordination with the Government, and based on assessments of the field security and safety situation.

Another joint team is scheduled to set out on Monday to survey Sri Lanka over the next two weeks.

In Sri Lanka, ADB experts will focus on roads, railways, and livelihood restoration, while ADB's development partners, the World Bank will focus on education, health and housing infrastructure, and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation experts will focus on power, water supply, and telecommunication. The United Nations system will help strengthen the link between ongoing emergency relief and long-term reconstruction.

The mission will work closely with a task force created by Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga to address and coordinate reconstruction activities in the affected areas, with representatives from civil society and other bilateral agencies, and with the United Nations team that is supporting the coordination of emergency relief and response efforts.

"The objective is to strengthen the Government's initial reconstruction needs assessment, and provide a common base for all development partners interested in supporting medium and long-term reconstruction efforts," says ADB Country Director Alessandro Pio.

"This will also ensure a smooth transition from emergency relief to rehabilitation and reconstruction. Much of Sri Lanka's coastal belt suffers from poverty, and this is also an opportunity to improve on pre-existing conditions, not simply recreate the pre-tsunami situation."

ADB pledged a total of up to $675 million to help the reconstruction effort in the three countries at yesterday's ASEAN Leaders' Special Meeting in Jakarta, comprising US$500 million in new grants and concessional loans, in addition to loan reallocations from ongoing programs, currently estimated at $175 million. ADB is also in discussion with other countries to determine their needs.