Sustainable timber urgently needed to rebuild Aceh

Aceh's already shattered landscape faces further devastation if donor countries do not immediately supply the tsumani-stricken province with sustainable timber, according to WWF.

The warning was issued at the launch of a set of new guidelines to safeguard Aceh’s environment against future threats, and has come at a time when the pressure is mounting for the huge amount of aid promised by the international community to be delivered.

Four months after the tsunami disaster struck the Asian coastline (see related story), major reconstruction work has still not begun in Aceh, where thousands of people still remain homeless and displaced.

The call for imported sustainable timber is the first phase of a reconstruction effort designed to minimise the impact that large-scale rebuilding would have on the province’s already damaged environment.

A report by WWF and Indonesian policy research institution Greenomics estimates that one million cubic metres of timber will be needed to rebuild Aceh over the next five years.

“Aceh faces the likelihood of further humanitarian and ecological disasters unless timber for reconstruction is immediately brought into the devastated Indonesian province,” executive director of WWF-Indonesia Mubariq Ahmad warned.

“If the amount of timber needed for the reconstruction of Aceh was sourced locally, the result would be massive deforestation, which would lead to further floods and landslides, and the potential for further tragedy for the Indonesian people.”

This would also put native wildlife species, such as the Sumatran tiger, rhino and elephant, under threat, as well as the region’s orang-utan population.

“The extensive conversion of coastal mangroves to shrimp ponds had already depleted Aceh’s natural defence systems before the tsunami hit, compounding its impact,” Mr Ahmad continued.

“It is vital that we don’t make the same mistakes – we need to rebuild Aceh in a sustainable and safe way.”

By Jane Kettle

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