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US-funded road threatens tsunami survivors

A village in Indonesia that Christian Aid helped to rebuild after the tsunami is under threat from a highway being funded by the US government.

The 500-kilometre road will run through the village of Kuala Bubon in Aceh meaning up to 50 of 120 new quake-resistant houses could be demolished.

Christian Aid helped fund the rebuilding of the village which was totally destroyed by the Boxing Day tsunami. A fish market and docks were also built to help the villagers, who mainly live by fishing, get back to work. More than 200 villagers were killed out of a total population of 928.

The villagers have written to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and to parliament to protest and ask that the road be routed around the village where there is unoccupied land.

The road is being funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

‘In general we do not reject this road construction…We have requested that USAID shift the road slightly so that it does not pass through the houses of the fishermen’s village at Kuala Bubon,’ says the letter from the villagers to the president.

Anthony Morton-King, Christian Aid’s tsunami programme manager, said the villagers realised the road would bring much-needed development to the area, but could not face having their lives disrupted again.

‘It would be compounding the tragedy of the tsunami to expect them to have to face the completely unnecessary demolition of their lives for a second time,’ he said.

‘The road is a good thing but it needs to be routed behind Kuala Bubon, where there is open land and no village to destroy. The construction is still many miles from reaching the village area, so whatever they might say, there is still plenty of time for USAID to send a surveyor and map out a new, sensible, route that would be of benefit to everybody. If money is the issue, the villagers have even offered to contribute to the cost of rerouting the road by selling fish and giving the proceeds to USAID.

‘Having visited the village myself on a number of occasions as it was being built, most recently just last month, I have been struck how well the villagers have worked together to rebuild their lives and their community. They have all had a hand in the construction of their houses, too.’

Christian Aid partner YEU, which built the houses in Kuala Bubon, was given permission for the construction by the Indonesian government.

But USAID says the land for the road was procured by the Indonesian government in 2005 and anybody who occupied the land after that was doing so illegally. It also says that only five new homes would be destroyed, but local aid organisations dispute this.

Christian Aid is continuing to help people whose lives were devastated by the tsunami. Christian Aid partners in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka have now helped build more than 24,000 homes and helped almost 250,000 people back to work.

Notes to editors
1. For more information or to arrange interviews please call Anjali Kwatra on 020 7523 2460 or 07941371357 or Judith Melby on 020 7523 2408.
2. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in more than 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.