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Spatial Planning and Resilience Following DisastersInternational and Comparative Perspectives$

Stefan Greiving, Michio Ubaura, and Jaroslav Tesliar

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781447323587

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447323587.001.0001

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Politics in spatial planning in Aceh recovery post-tsunami 2004

Politics in spatial planning in Aceh recovery post-tsunami 2004

(p.77) Chapter A2a Politics in spatial planning in Aceh recovery post-tsunami 2004
Spatial Planning and Resilience Following Disasters

Togu Santoso Pardede

Gita Chandrika Munandar

Policy Press

Abstract and Keywords

After being hit by a tsunami in 2004, the socio-political situation in Aceh became more complicated, since this region had been ravaged by conflict for 32 years. Given the socio-political background, the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) tends to avoid conflict with the society. Although initially the Government of Indonesia had formulated a master plan for the rehabilitation and reconstruction in Aceh, the BRR ultimately decided to use the village plan - a community-based spatial plan at village level - as a basis to rebuild settlements that were destroyed by the tsunami - Village plans were being implemented throughout the entire affected areas. The authors argue that despite the participation of the community, mitigation efforts after the disaster in Aceh have not met the target to build a resilient community. Politicization affected the implementation of the spatial plan.

Keywords:   reconstruction in Aceh, spatial plan, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency, Aceh tsunami


Population: 255,461,700 (2015 estimate)1

Government: Unitary presidential constitutional republic

Area: 1.9 million sq km (742,308 sq miles)2

Administrative structure: Indonesia consists of 34 provinces, five of which have special status. Each province has its own legislature and governor. The provinces are subdivided into regencies (kabupaten) and cities (kota), which are further subdivided into districts (kecamatan), and again into administrative villages. Village is the lowest level of government administration in Indonesia.

Hazard profile:

Landslides (Nation wide), Volcanic eruptions (along the ring of fire: Sumatra, Java, Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi), Tsunamis (coastal areas face Indian Ocean: Sumatra Jawa, Bali-Nusa Tenggara, Mollucas)

Earthquakes (nationwide)

River floods (nationwide)

Drought (Kalimantan ,Sulawesi, Papua)

Forest fires (Sumatra, Kalimantan, Jawa, NTT)

Authorities in charge of risk assessment and management:

National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB) on national level and Local Disaster Management Authority (BPBD) on provincial and regencies/cities level.

Analysed event:

Earthquake in the Indian Ocean (8.9 on the Richter scale) followed by tsunami in Aceh (26 December 2004. Second earthquake (9.1 on the Richter scale) followed by tsunami in Simeulue Island (Aceh) and Nias (North Sumatra) (26 March 2005)

Estimated return period:

Estimated damages: $4.45 billion (equal to 97% of Aceh’s GDP)

Casualties:170,000 people were killed and about 500,000 were left homeless (1st earthquake & tsunami) 905 people were killed and displaced tens of thousands people (2nd earthquake & tsunami)

Role of spatial planning:

Responsible for risk management of some hazard that are spatially relevant (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, drought, and landslides). Responsible for post-disaster recovery. Although now the

focus shift to the prevention phase(mitigation).

(p.78) Introduction

When Aceh was hit by an earthquake followed by a devastating tsunami in 2004, the government of Indonesia introduced a master plan as the basis for the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Aceh to create a post-disaster resilient community. Spatial planning policies and participatory planning processes were adopted during the reconstruction. Buffer zone and infrastructure development, as well as other mitigation efforts, were designed. Community-based village plans were adopted and implemented in all of the affected areas.

However, almost a decade after the tsunami, the cities that were destroyed by the tsunami in 2004 were revived at the same sites as before the tsunami. Plans to relocate the communities to a safer place almost did not happen. Plans to rebuild spaces that are more resilient to disaster were not achieved either. An earthquake of 7.9 on the Richter scale in April 2012 proved the failure of the spatial-based disaster mitigation in Aceh. People were running around frantically, not knowing where to go. The Early Warning System did not work; evacuation routes and shelters were not used properly.

On the other hand, the speed of the reconstruction process in Aceh received a lot of praise. It was considered as having been done in a much faster way than the reconstruction process in other disaster-affected areas in the world, such as New Orleans, USA (Taufiqurrachman, 2006), and Sendai, Japan. In Aceh, three years after the tsunami, most of the victims of the tsunami had been resettled. The economy of the city of Banda Aceh was recovered quickly, even exceeding the conditions prior to the tsunami. The population of Banda Aceh was also increased rapidly. After being hit by the tsunami, the population of Banda Aceh decreased from 265,098 in 2004 to 177,881 in 2005, but began to increase again in 2006 and finally achieved 228,562 people in 2011 (see Figure 28).

While the reconstruction process in Sendai-Tohoku was criticised for its slowness and had to deal with a population decline in the affected areas, three years after the tsunami, almost all damaged municipalities have just completed examining and designing their recovery plan according to their circumstances. They are taking the time to plan carefully to make sure that the cities hit by the tsunami will be resilient against future tsunamis.

This chapter argues that the socio-political conditions in Aceh prior to the 2004 tsunami had a significant influence on the decisions determining the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts to be done. After being hit by the tsunami in 2004, the socio-political situation (p.79)

Politics in spatial planning in Aceh recovery post-tsunami 2004

Figure 28: Population in Banda Aceh, 2001–2011

Source: Author, BPS Aceh (2011)

in Aceh became more complicated since this region had been ravaged by conflict for 32 years. Given the socio-political background, the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) tends to avoid conflict with society. Although the government of Indonesia had initially formulated a master plan for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh, the BRR ultimately decided to use a village plan – a community-based spatial plan at village level – as a basis to rebuild settlements that were destroyed by the tsunami. Village plans were implemented on a massive scale throughout the entire affected areas. The authors argue that, despite the participation of the community, mitigation efforts to rebuild spatial resilience after the disaster in Aceh have not met the target of building resilient communities. Politicisation affected the implementation of spatial plans. The community and government (BRR) tended to look at short-term needs and interests, while overlooking the long-term ones. A technocratic approach and plan must be tailored to the socio-political conditions of the time in order to be implemented without a hitch. For a resilient Aceh in the future, collaboration and coordination between multiple stakeholders, especially the government (central, provincial, local) and community, is a crucial factor.

(p.80) Literature on and practice of land use for post-disaster recovery

During the first decade of the millennium, there has been an increasing number of disasters, many of which were high-impact disasters (intensive risk events), namely, Gujarat Earthquake, India (2001), Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004), Hurricane Katrina, USA (2005), Kashmir Earthquake, Pakistan (2005), Yogyakarta Earthquake, Indonesia (2006), Shenchuan Earthquake, China (2008), Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar (2008), Haiti Earthquake (2010) and, most recently, the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (2011) and Typhoon Yolanda, Philippines (2013).

The planning for rebuilding a city/community after disaster is generally a dilemmatic and complex process. There is a trade-off between speed and quality, quick action and broad participation, human interest and political interest. It is a complex process, compressing all aspects of urban development into a short time period. The planning process in a post-disaster situation is somewhat different than normal development planning. Based on academic studies and planning practice, Olshansky and Chang (2009) provided a summary of the indicators of successful recoveries as follows: substantial external funding, provided quickly and with few restrictions; strong local leadership; cooperation between city, state and federal officials; local, citizen-based processes for making and reviewing reconstruction decisions; previous planning documents that describe consensus policies for future development; and pre-existing planning institutions. Recovery processes are complex and unique to location, time and context. It is not possible to measure the length of the process or to identify the endpoint of recovery (Olshansky and Johnson, 2010). People are not in ‘ideal’ condition, either physically or mentally. It is difficult to respond to the real needs of those people in such a condition. Thus, post-disaster planning is different from normal planning because in normal planning, people are not under the extreme stress that they are in disaster planning.

During the reconstruction process, there is a good opportunity to engage in activity that will increase the level of development and reduce vulnerability to future disasters (Berke et al, 1993; Milleti, 1999). ‘Building Back Better’ during post-disaster recovery and reconstruction should address the underlying vulnerabilities and should avoid ‘emergency reconstruction’ efforts. Missing such opportunities will expose communities to future risks and trap them into a disaster cycle. As the primary tool for hazard mitigation at the community level, effective spatial planning is critically important to build community (p.81) resilience. The regulation of the spatial plan can reduce the exposure of residents to natural hazards (Olshansky and Kartez, 1998; World Bank, 2010). The Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction 2015–2030 promotes the incorporation of disaster risk management into the post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation process through land-use planning (UNISDR, 2015). Spatial planning is an essential component of a community’s long-term resilience.

However, in practice, there is a challenge in implementing disaster risk reduction during recovery, especially the implementation of the spatial plan in Aceh, to convince residents to relocate to less hazardous areas in the neighbourhood or within the city as planned. The majority of residents in Banda Aceh resisted being relocated to higher ground or safer places prepared by the government. They preferred to stay on their original land due to their emotional ties to the land and their livelihood, while refusing to see the ongoing dangers of their situation.

Aceh reconstruction efforts

Massively damaged conditions in the tsunami-affected areas required the development of cities and regions with comprehensive planning that considered aspects of sustainable development and disaster mitigation in order to build spatial resilience after disasters in the future. The government of Indonesia divided the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh into four stages (see Figure 29):

  1. 1. The Emergency Stage (26 December 2004–28 March 2005). The National Coordination Agency for Disaster Management (Bakornas PB) conducted the emergency response, and the Coordinating Minister of People Welfare coordinated all stakeholders. As the emergency stage ended, the President appointed the Minister of the National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS) to prepare the rehabilitation and reconstruction plan (Master Plan) and the institution to implement the plan.

  2. 2. Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Stage (April 2005–2008). At this stage, a mandate was given to the BRR (Aceh-Nias) to coordinate and execute the recovery efforts in Aceh and Nias (North Sumatra) based on the Master Plan. In 2007, the plan was reviewed and enacted as Action Plan (2008–09) to be followed until April 2009.

  3. 3. Transition and Continuation of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Stage (April 2009–2012). The transition stage started from April 2009 until the end of December 2009, to be continued until the end of December 2012. Post-BRR in April 2009, when coordination (p.82)

Politics in spatial planning in Aceh recovery post-tsunami 2004

Figure 29: Planning and Policy Framework for Aceh Reconstruction

Source: Author, Republic of Indonesia (2009)

  • returned to normal, the coordination of the government/line ministries’ works during the stage of continuation of rehabilitation and reconstruction was conducted by BAPPENAS at the national level and by ad hoc agencies of reconstruction (BKRA and BKRN) at the provincial level. The Completion and Continuation of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Action Plan (2010–12) was created as a guideline to complete the works until 2012.

  1. 4. Beyond 2012. Back to regular development by local government.

The development of the Master Plan of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction

Soon after the tsunami, the national government took actions directly to handle Aceh. The local government was disabled as most of its officers had been victims. Within two weeks, the national government, together with the international community, prepared damage and loss assessments with findings that still remain the best overall evaluation of the disaster’s impact. Based on this assessment, under the leadership of BAPPENAS, a Master Plan of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction was formulated on 26 March 2005 using a multi-stakeholder approach. It involved a wide range of stakeholders, including international donors, line ministries, local government representatives, civil society groups, religious leaders of Aceh and local and national universities, organised (p.83) around 10 different thematic groups and working simultaneously in Jakarta and Banda Aceh. The Master Plan was then legalised on 15 April 2005 as Presidential Decree No 30 Year 2005.

The Master Plan consisted of 12 books: the Main Book of Master Plan and 11 detailed sectoral books.1 One of the 11 sectoral books consisted of a spatial plan of Aceh Province, Banda Aceh City and eight other districts, as well as three main cities, which were heavily damaged. All activities of the sectoral ministries concerned were accommodated in the 11 books, which would be implemented within four years. The spatial plans that were developed were used as guidelines from the national government during the reconstruction process, which would then be used as a reference to revise the existing provincial and local spatial plans.

The establishment of the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency

On 30 April 2005, a single agency with full authority to coordinate and implement the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh was established, the BRR, led by Kuntoro Mangkusubroto. The BRR was given a four-year mandate (ending in April 2009) to coordinate and implement the rehabilitation and reconstruction using the Master Plan as a basic framework. The establishment of this agency was aimed to minimise bureaucracy, delegate authority, increase efficiency and speed up the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction without compromising the government’s safeguards and integrity.

There was an evident tension between the need to show quick results and the need for careful and comprehensive planning. The scale and scope of the disaster and the involvement of so many agencies, such as all line ministries, the private sector, donor agencies and nongovernmental organisation (NGOs), compounded this complexity. The establishment of the BRR as a single agency with full authority to coordinate and implement the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh was expected to address the complexity of the coordination issue. Due to its unique characteristics (experimentation, flexibility, limited duration, smaller size and full authority), the BRR could be an ideal vehicle for experimentation within the restrictions that regulate government action.

Spatial planning policies in the Aceh reconstruction

According to ‘Book 2: spatial plan and land affairs’, the spatial planning policies in the reconstruction efforts included (Bappenas, 2005):

  1. (p.84) 1. Creating a safer and better life. Disaster-prone areas should be equipped with mitigation infrastructure such as escape routes, escape building and an early warning system.

  2. 2. Giving citizens the freedom of choice in settling down (at relocation areas or original places).

  3. 3. Involving local community and social institutions in disaster management and recovery efforts.

  4. 4. Highlighting cultural and religious characteristics.

  5. 5. The spatial planning process being a combination of top-down and bottom-up approach (participative).

  6. 6. Restoring local governments’ role in spatial planning. The concept of spatial planning in the Master Plan was prepared by the national government because the local government (at that time) was not fully functional. Furthermore, the local government can use the concept of spatial planning in the Master Plan to finalise the planning process and continue the legal process of the definitive local spatial plan.

  7. 7. Protecting citizens’ civil and land rights.

  8. 8. Accelerating the land administration process.

  9. 9. Providing fair and affordable compensation.

  10. 10. Revitalising the economic activities of the community.

  11. 11. Restoring environmental-supporting capacity.

  12. 12. Rehabilitating the spatial structure and pattern in Aceh Province that were damaged by the tsunami to rebuild the linkage between western and eastern coastal cities in order to increase equitable development.

  13. 13. Rebuilding the cities towards economy, physical and social resilience involving the local community.

The spatial plan provided a spatial guideline for general policies on rehabilitation and reconstruction in Aceh, which included: (1) rebuilding communities; (2) rebuilding the economy; (3) rebuilding infrastructure and housing development; and (4) rebuilding the governance. The general policies were translated into action plans in the emergency response phase and rehabilitation and reconstruction phase by considering the direction of spatial plan/spatial integration in the Aceh and Nias (North Sumatra) regions based on the principle of sustainable development. Furthermore, the integration of sectoral and regional policies was translated into work plans based on location, activities undertaken, person/institution in charge, implementation time and source of funding. Every phase – policy and strategy formulation, regional development, the formulation of work plans, (p.85) implementation, and monitoring and evaluation – was done through the involvement of the community’s aspirations, hope and participation (see Figure 30).

Politics in spatial planning in Aceh recovery post-tsunami 2004

Figure 30: Planning framework for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh and Nias (North Sumatra)

Source: Main Book Master Plan (Bappenas, 2005)

Implementation of the spatial plan

There was resistance from the community to the spatial plan formulated in the Master Plan. The plan was considered too macro and difficult to implement in the field. The resistance occurred particularly because of the buffer zone policy that prohibited construction within two kilometres of the coast. The Indonesian government planned to divide the two-kilometre area into three zones. The first zone, comprising of mangroves, palm trees and pine trees, would be separated from the sea by break walls and were extended to 300 metres inland. The second zone, within which only fishermen would be permitted to live, would extend a further 1.6 kilometres inland and included the construction of some power generators and infrastructure. Trees would be planted in the third zone, a 100-metre zone on the edge of Aceh’s coastal towns and cities. The land-clearing process could present problems because many landowners did not agree with the buffer zone policy. Some (p.86) had tried to rebuild their homes or had stuck flags in the ground to mark their property within the buffer zone, while other groups had sent petitions opposing the relocation plan.

After the Master Plan was legalised as Presidential Decree No 30 Year 2005 and was going to be implemented, conflicts occurred, for example:

  1. 1. Conflict between an ideal spatial plan and the community’s wish to be quickly resettled. The Master Plan mandated the need to reformulate the local spatial plan (city/regency) to include disaster mitigation in order to reduce the risk of future disaster. However, the revision and preparation of the local spatial plan (Banda Aceh City and Aceh Province) until it was legalised into local regulation took quite a long time because it had to go through the process of ratification by the local parliament. The people could not wait until the spatial plan was reformulated and legalised to rebuild their home towns. In this case, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto –the head of the BRR – supported the community to rebuild their settlements without the existence of a local spatial plan: “Nothing is the role of [spatial plan] province or district plan. It doesn’t work. I forget them. It’s a political process that means it must go to local parliament process. We can’t control that political process” (Interview, 2010).

  2. 2. Conflict between the Master Plan and the BRR strategy. The BRR reconstruction strategy on spatial planning did not entirely follow the Master Plan. The village planning concept implemented by the BRR was a concept that was developed outside the defined spatial planning within the Master Plan.

According to the Law on Spatial Planning in Indonesia, spatial planning was the authority of local government. This was the biggest obstacle to the BRR. Local government initiative was not as fast as needed to follow the pace of reconstruction. The BRR had helped the local government in developing a spatial plan through the deliverance of several studies related to the spatial plan, but the process of the legalisation and implementation of the plan had not begun. Village spatial planning was a breakthrough for the BRR as it was considered a middle ground that could resolve the need for rapid spatial implementation. The Village Spatial Plan or Village Plan (VP) was formulated in a short amount of time by the community accompanied by facilitators, legalised only by approval from the Keuchik (village leader) and operationalised as a reference for reconstruction and development in the village. This (p.87) was also in line with the mandate of the Master Plan to accommodate community participation in the reconstruction process.

Village Spatial Plan

The VP is a community-based spatial plan and community recovery plan. The Head of the BRR issued guidelines for VP through BRR Decree No 1/1.02/01.01/2005 in June 2005 to all parties involved in the process of village planning throughout the Aceh region. These guidelines were published six months after the tsunami hit Aceh, whereas some housing assistance from NGOs had already been conducted. It covered around 647 villages in Aceh Province and 63 villages in Banda Aceh City in less than two years. The partners of village planning included UN Habitat– UNDP (UN Development Program), United States Aid (USAID), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australian Aid (AUSAID), German Technical Coorporation Agency (GTZ), Mercycorps, Yasasan Inovasi Pemerintah Daerah (YIPD) (land mapping) and the BRR (see Figure 31). Each donor agency had its own standard/guideline; however, a common standard was achieved and the BRR guideline was used as the minimum standard. This might be the first large-scale community planning effort in world history in terms of the number of agencies, time and coverage involved (Pardede and Kidokoro, 2008).2

An example of the VP in Lamjabat Village (USAID model) is shown in Figure 32

Politics in spatial planning in Aceh recovery post-tsunami 2004

Figure 31: Donors’ contribution to village planning in Banda Aceh City and Aceh Province

Source: Data processed by author


Politics in spatial planning in Aceh recovery post-tsunami 2004

Figure 32: An example of the Village Plan: Lamjabat Village (USAID Model)

Source: Author; BRR (2005)


Village planning: the politics of community participation planning

Village planning could provide a quick overview of the local situation from the viewpoint of the people. It also helped to transfer the communities’ needs and wishes to decision-makers and planners in a direct way so that it motivated the communities and mobilised the implementation as well. Overall, it strengthened bottom-up processes. Furthermore, this participation during the planning process served as a healing process for the community since they were kept busy with making plans that could help them to forget the trauma and sadness of the past, and focus more on what they hoped for the future for their family and community. However, village planning also faced challenges, such as: social jealousy within communities or between villages; reconstruction delays; and the varied quality of houses due to land-title issues, bad contractors and institutional problems.

The usage of village planning as a basis for the reconstruction of settlements in Aceh, although considered a breakthrough and deemed appropriate for the conditions of that time, also had its drawbacks, such as:

  • (p.89) The quality of reconstruction of the villages was different from one village to another. This happened because the quality of the developed VPs varied between villages. The quality of the VP was determined by several factors; one of the factors was the participation of the community. In some villages, the community was eager and better prepared to participate, while in other villages, the community did not have the spirit or the patience to participate. S. Lalu (interview, March 2009), coordinator of Village Spatial Planning Ausaid, Local Governance and Infrastructure Community in Aceh (LOGICA), stated that village planning was intended to increase community participation in formulating settlement planning. However, apparently not all village planning was developed with community participation. Other factors included the quality of the facilitators and contractors. All these factors affected the quality of reconstruction in the villages.

  • The lack of planning linkages between villages and with the meso/macro-planning (city) level. The VP was developed by the community itself with the help of facilitators. The VP was completed later and offered by the Keuchik (village leader) to NGOs/donors who were willing to do the reconstruction in accordance with the VP. Interaction and coordination only occurred between the communities with the facilitator, but there was no coordination with the surrounding villages, with the local government responsible for development in larger areas (district, city level), the contractor/NGO who built the houses, or the BRR who built the infrastructure. Therefore, after all the villages were redeveloped, we could find a few things that were not in sync (road networks that were not well connected, housing arrangements that were not suitable, etc). This was due to the non-existence of a macro-plan that could be used as a reference for the development of infrastructure networks, as the forming of city structure, and therefore the connectivity between villages or between land uses, became unclear (Dercon and Kusumawidjaya, 2007). In this context, village spatial planning cannot be used solely without a city or district spatial plan. A VP does not contain a comprehensive analysis of the linkages between villages or with a wider area. Therefore, a wider plan covering comprehensive analysis is necessary. This is especially important when many stakeholders are involved at the same time (NGOs, donors, community and government). Communication and coordination between stakeholders during the design and implementation of the plan is a must.

  • (p.90) The loss of golden time to develop a safer settlement from future tsunami. After the tsunami, the people actually agreed to be moved to a safer place, outside the buffer zone. M. Nurdin, Mayor of Banda Aceh, stated that at that time (from six months to one year after), the community was still traumatised by the tsunami (interview, July 2011). However, the relocation could not be realised because of several reasons. One reason was that the longterm benefits of spatial planning in the Master Plan and disaster mitigation through the implementation of the buffer zone was not well explained or campaigned for. Lack of communication led to the Master Plan being poorly understood. Only a plan that is understood by the stakeholders will be accepted, and can therefore be implemented. Another reason was the delay in the disbursement of funds for the purchase of land for the relocation of the community. Thus, many of the residents whose homes were destroyed went back to their original location in the disaster-prone areas and rebuilt their houses there since there were abundant funds offered by NGOs/donors.

The drawbacks of the VP were partly due to its formulation, which did not follow the rule as defined in Law No 24 Year 1992 on spatial planning. According to Law No 24 Year 1992 on spatial planning, a provincial spatial plan is used as a reference for city and regency spatial plans, which, in turn, become the basis for the formulation of a detailed plan. However, the BRR made the plan in the opposite way. They started with the VP in 2005–06, followed by sub-district plans in 2007, and finally the city/regency plan in 2009. Edy Purwanto (interview, January 2012), the Deputy Operational of the BRR, stated that the BRR had developed spatial plans with different approaches since the normal process would take a long time.

Political dilemma leads to failure in mitigation efforts

Disaster mitigation for the long-term future was not embodied in the reconstruction in Banda Aceh. For example, one of the policies and strategies in the Master Plan was to build residential areas away from the coast in disaster-prone areas (there is a buffer zone), but what happened was that people moved back to their original locations and built housing settlements on the coast. In another example, the Master Plan (March 2005) and the Banda Aceh City Spatial Plan formulated by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (August 2005) indicated a ring road construction (p.91) plan. The ring road development plan had two functions: to reduce congestion in the city centre; and to be the boundary for settlement development. The road could also function as an embankment for future tsunamis. Shimizu, a consultant for JICA who developed the Spatial Plan of Banda Aceh (interview, 2008), stated that the plan was rejected by the BRR for political reasons. The BRR worried that the ring road would become the boundary of the buffer zone, which was a sensitive issue at that time.

Kuntoro Mangkusubroto stated that in performing its duties, the BRR tried to avoid conflict with the public as much as possible because it could hinder the process of reconstruction (Teleconference with Tohoku University–JICA, 4 April 2011). Efforts to avoid and reduce conflict were undertaken by the BRR, for example, by recruiting media workers and ex-Free Aceh Movement (GAM) members into the BRR. Kuntoro had full authority to manage the recovery process.3 He also had full authority to manage the BRR as much as needed in accordance to the situation and conditions of that time without the need to have permission from Jakarta. The political decision to avoid conflict had an impact on the implementation of the Master Plan. The Master Plan, which included disaster mitigation such as the development of a buffer zone and the relocation of people from disaster-prone areas, was not implemented entirely. However, what happened was that people were still living in disaster-prone areas. An earthquake that hit Banda Aceh City on 11 April 2012 caused panic in the community. They did not use the evacuation route or the rescue building.4 Public responses to the tsunami warning were varied; even the siren did not work in Banda Aceh (BNPB, 2012). It shows that community resilience to disasters has not been formed.

Science-based planning and community-based participatory planning

Science-based planning is suitable for long-term and larger-scale (macro and meso) planning, while community-based planning is more suitable for short-term and small-scale planning. When village planning was chosen as the basis for development in the reconstruction process in Aceh, it was a decision to prioritise community-based planning. This is different than the approach in Japan. The post-disaster reconstruction process in Sendai-Tohoku was done by science-based planning, in which the recovery policies, as well as land-use policy, were obtained from intensive research by the university. The community plan was only started after the macro-plan was finished. Planning was done (p.92) on the national, prefecture and city level (with input from scientist). Similarly, in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, planning began with several plans at the macro-level (state and city) and then continued with the plan at the district and neighbourhood level. In Aceh, the planning was done at the national/provincial and village level, passing the plan at city/regency level.

Since the local government in Aceh became paralysed by the tsunami, the President commissioned the National Planning and Development Agency to formulate a multi-sector rehabilitation and reconstruction plan in a short amount of time (three months) to be used immediately after the emergency phase was completed. Consequently, the formulation of the Master Plan did not involve the participation of the people of Aceh and was a more technocratic and top-down approach. This is in contrast with Japan and the US, which enabled massive and structured community participation for both macro- and micro-plans, thus requiring a longer time to formulate the plans.

Every attempt at recovery is faced with major issues that make the recovery efforts unique. In Aceh, there was the issue of a long-term armed conflict between the GAM and the government of Indonesia, which caused the people of Aceh to distrust the Indonesian government in rebuilding Aceh after the tsunami. In Japan, a large number of elderly residents, and the declining number of residents in the areas hit by the tsunami, led to a dilemma in rebuilding tsunami-resistant regions with large investments; while the issue of racism in the US decelerated the recovery process in New Orleans. Those issues affected every decision taken in performing recovery efforts in the area (for a detailed comparison, see Table 3 overleaf).


Trust is very crucial to implementing a plan successfully. Given the socio-political background in Aceh, efforts to build trust with the people of Aceh were a must in order to have a smooth rehabilitation and reconstruction programme without it being rejected by the people. For that reason, the BRR sought to avoid conflicts with the communities as much as possible and tended to meet the demands of the people. In order to build trust with the community, the BRR chose to give freedom to the community in determining their choices or decisions during the reconstruction process. However, in the absence of a macro/meso-spatial plan that could serve as a reference, the implementation of the VP was not well directed.

(p.93) Sociocultural beliefs

The people of Aceh believe that disasters are the will of God, and therefore cannot be avoided. Wherever we live, if it is the will of God, disasters will continue to happen. Communities with that perception seem to dominate and are spread evenly in Banda Aceh. The paradigm that sees natural hazards as a punishment or a curse given by God, due to the sins of mankind, is still firmly entrenched in the community of Banda Aceh (Ahmad, 2011). This kind of belief can hinder mitigation efforts. On the other hand, in Simeulue Island, there is a hereditary culture to save themselves from disasters when a tsunami hits the area, known as ‘Smong’.


The BRR may succeed in the development of Aceh, but not in building community resilience and disaster mitigation. People in Aceh, particularly those in vulnerable areas, have no operational standard to face calamities, even though the 2004 tsunami should have served as a valuable experience to anticipate similar situations. Knowledge and awareness of disasters are extremely important to communities living on the western coastal zone of Aceh, especially in areas without a tsunami early warning system.

Learning from the experience in Aceh, the implementation of rehabilitation and reconstruction after disasters should not only be limited to physical reconstruction. The development of social resilience is also required. When the physical reconstruction has been completed, socialisation and training on spatial planning and disaster risk reduction efforts must be continuous so that it becomes knowledge that is well understood by the public.

The socio-political situation in Aceh led the BRR to decide to use a VP. Although the implementation of a VP was considered a success and deemed appropriate for the conditions of that time, it also had its drawbacks. This was mainly due to the absence of planning at the macro-level, particularly at the city level, which would be the basis for the establishment of the city structure and the development of integration between villages. That condition was a dilemma faced by the BRR at the time: the choice between building quickly without rejection from the community but only for the short term, or waiting for the completion of the city spatial plan for the long term, which takes a long time and can therefore lead to conflict in society. Every decision has its consequences. (p.94) (p.95)

Table 3 Comparison of Aceh, Tohoku and New Orleans in the formulation of recovery plan

Aceh after Earthquake and Tsunami 2004

Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami 2011

New Orleans after Katrina 2005



Macro-Wide Plan

Community Plan

Macro-Wide/City Plan

Community plan

Macro-Wide/City Plan

Community plan


Type of Plan

Master Plan

Village Plan (647 Plans)

National policy, Prefecture plan and City plan

  1. 1. FEMA ESF-14, ULI

  2. 2. Louisiana Speaks, BNOP

  3. 3. UNOP City Wide Plan

  1. 1. Lambert Plans

  2. 2. Neighborhood Plans


Institution in charge of the plan formulation

BAPPENAS (Ministry of National Planning)

Villagers assisted by facilitator team

  1. 1. National Recovery Agency

  2. 2. Local Govt with committee: national academics (scientist), business association, citizen organizations,

Local communities, CSO, machizukuri planning team, local officers

Federal, State, Local Government with city wide planning team: ULI, Concordia

Planning Consultant (Lambert) with Community


Content of the plan

Recovery policy, strategies, program

Action Plan: site plan, infrastructure , development plan

Recovery projects, industry, economic revitalization, land use, disaster mitigation

Relocation land adjustment

Recovery strategies/direction and recovery projects

Recovery strategies/direction and recovery projects


Schedule for plan making

A week after the disaster, starting with damage assessment. This assessment was used as basis for developing master plan

Start 3-6 month after the tsunami, some villages 1 year after

  • National Recovery Vision (1 month after) by National Reconstruction Council

  • Prefecture and Local Recovery Plan (1-3 month after)

Start 3-6 month after the concept from National and Prefecture (to be integrated)

UL: a week after BNOP: 2 weeks after Lambert Plan: 1 year after UNOP: 1 year after

6 months-1 year after


Time frame period and budget

6 years (for 4 years and for 2 years (US$7.7 billion)

3 years

7-10 years (total 21T Yen = US$262 billion)

7-10 years

10 years

10 years


Funding for developing plan


Donors, NGOs, BRR

National, Prefecture and City Government

City Government

Federal, State, City Govt, Foundation

Federal Govt, Foundation


Time making process

3 months

3-6 months

3-7 months

6 months

6 month (BNOP)

6 month


Social issues

Long Arm Conflict (GAM vs RI)

Aging population



Planning capacity

Local Government was paralysed due to the tsunami. Therefore the rehabilitation and reconstruction planning was taken by National Planning Ministry

The community-based plan (machizukuri) was formulated with the support of urban planning consultants

Lack of local government planning officers after the hurricane. Strong planning team/consultant city/district/neighbourhood


Plan template

Medium Term National/Province Development Plan

Comprehensive City Master Plan

Comprehensive City andneighbourhood Plan


Planning stage

2 steps planning: National/province plan followed by village plan

2 steps planning: province/city plan followed by district/community plan with refer to nationalrecovery policy

Several steps of planning: FEMA ESF14, BNOP, Lambert Plan, UNOP


Participatory planning process

  • Lack of participation in Province/City Wide Plan (top-down)

  • Community participation in village/neighborhood level assisted by facilitators/NGOs/donors

  • Holding committee of expert and representative of stakeholders in city wide plan.

  • Very active citizen participation – machizukuri in neighborhood level

  • Consultants led the planning activities. There was limited administrative officer oversight, participation

  • Citizen participated actively in a series of both citywide, district and neighbourhood meetings.

Implementation of the plan


Institution for managing recovery

Special National Agency (BRR) (after 3 months) had considerable latitude to coordinate, monitor, and implement recovery, especially to fill the gap

BRR with Satker (Working Unit), Regional Office (after 2007)

National Recovery Agency (after 9 months) sets guidelines for local planning, approves local recovery plans, and coordinates work of national ministries as they implement reconstruction

Local Government, Community

Louisiana Recovery Authority (State).set planning policy for recovery, to the governor and state legislature, and provided oversight of state agency recovery activities. NORA

ORM City Office Recovery Management


Funding for plan implementation

National budget, International donor, NGOs

Donors, NGOs, National

National, Prefecture, City Govt, Tax

City, Community

FEMA, State, City, Foundation

Federal. City Govt, NGO, Foundation


Adoption of the plan

4 month after the event

3-months to 1 year after

7 months after the tsunami

1 year after

6 month to 1 year after Katrina

1 year after


Evaluation of the Plan

2 years after (2007) Mid Term Review by BRR & Bappenas

Evaluation at some villages by Village officers, community and facilitators

Source: Author; Iuchi et al (2013); Olshansky & Johnson (2010)

(p.96) Acknowledgements

The author is extremely grateful to Professor Robert Olshansky, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who gave insight on post-disaster planning theory, provided time to visit the disaster in the city of New Orleans and arranged a meeting with Steven Bingler-Concordia, who led the making of Unified New Oleans Plan (UNOP), and several recovery stakeholders on July 2010. Acknowledgement is also given to Professor Kidokoro, the University of Tokyo, who supervised the author’s dissertation and facilitated research between March and December 2013 so that the author had a chance to see the Tohoku recovery.


(1.) The 11 detailed themes books were: (1) Spatial Planning and Land Affairs; (2) Natural Resources and Environment; (3) Infrastructure and Settlement; (4) Economics and Employment; (5) Local Institutions; (6) Education and Health; (7) Religion and Social Culture; (8) Regulations; (9) Safety, Order and Defence; (10) Governance and Control; and (11) Budgeting.

(2.) Three multilateral agencies, three bilateral donors, three international NGOs and more than 2,000 planners and facilitators were despatched to villages.

(3.) Before Kuntoro agreed to be the head of the BRR, he negotiated with the President and asked for special authority, which was enacted by law for speedy reconstruction.

(4.) JICA had provided a tsunami evacuation building with a 4th floor and designed for an earthquake of 9 on the Richter scale with a helipad on the top. It was designed for 2,000 people standing for three to four hours (teleconference Kuntoro with Tohoku University).


Bibliography references:

Ahmad, A. 2011, ‘Survey Conducted on 20 June–20 July, 2011’, Kompas, 20 July.

BPS (Badan Pusat Statistik), 2011, Banda Aceh in Number 2011, BPS Kota Banda Aceh.

BAPPENAS 2005, Master plan for The Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of the Regions and Communities of the Province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and the Islands of Nias, Province of North Sumatera, Government of Indonesia, Jakarta.

Berke, P.R., Kartez, J., & Wenger, D. 1993, ‘Recovery after Disaster – Achieving Sustainable Development, Mitigation and Equity’, Disasters, 17(2), pp. 93-109.

BNPB 2012, Master Plan Tsunami Disaster Risk Reduction, Government of Indonesia, Jakarta.

BRR Aceh 2005, The Lamjabat Village Spatial Plan,

(p.97) Dercon, B. & Kusumawijaya, M. 2007, ‘Two Years Settlement Recovery in Aceh and Nias: What should the Planners have learned?’ Paper presented at International Seminar on Post Disaster Reconstruction, URDI, Yogyakarta, 8-10 July 2007.

Iuchi, K, Johnson, L. & Olshansky, R.B. 2013, ‘Securing Tohoku’s Future Planning for Rebuilding in the First Year Following the Tohoku-Oki Earthquake and Tsunami,Earthquake’, Spectra, Vol. 29 pp. 479-499.

Mileti, D.S. 1999, Disasters by Design: A Reassessment of Natural Hazards in the United States, Joseph Henry Press, Washington, D.C.

Olshansky, R.B. & Chang, S. 2009, ‘Planning for Disaster Recovery: Emerging Research Needs and Challenge’, Progress in Planning, 72, pp. 200-209.

Olshansky, R.B. & Johnson, L.A. 2010, Clear as Mud: Planning for Rebuilding of New Orleans, American Planning Association, Chicago, IL.

Olshansky, R.B & Kartez. 1998, Managing Land Use to Build Resilience in Cooperating with Natural Hazards with Land-Use Planning for Sustainable Communities, Joseph Henry Press, Washington D.C., pp. 167-201.

Pardede, T. & Kidokoro, T. 2008, ‘Aceh Reconstruction Planning, Top Down or Bottom up: Overview of Planning Theory and Learning from Community Planning in Aceh’, Proceedings 7th Asian City Planning, City Planning Institute of Japan, Tokyo.

Republic of Indonesia, President Regulation number 3, 2009, Termination of the Task of the Agency for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Aceh and Nias and Continuity Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Aceh and Nias, North Sumatra.

Taufiqurrahman 2006, ‘EU, World Bank laud Aceh Reconstruction’, The Jakarta Post, 14 July.

United Nation Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) 2015, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, United Nations, Headquarters (UN)

World Bank 2010, Safer Homes, Stronger Communities: A Handbook for Reconstructing after Natural Disasters. (p.98)


(1.) The 11 detailed themes books were: (1) Spatial Planning and Land Affairs; (2) Natural Resources and Environment; (3) Infrastructure and Settlement; (4) Economics and Employment; (5) Local Institutions; (6) Education and Health; (7) Religion and Social Culture; (8) Regulations; (9) Safety, Order and Defence; (10) Governance and Control; and (11) Budgeting.

(2.) Three multilateral agencies, three bilateral donors, three international NGOs and more than 2,000 planners and facilitators were despatched to villages.

(3.) Before Kuntoro agreed to be the head of the BRR, he negotiated with the President and asked for special authority, which was enacted by law for speedy reconstruction.

(4.) JICA had provided a tsunami evacuation building with a 4th floor and designed for an earthquake of 9 on the Richter scale with a helipad on the top. It was designed for 2,000 people standing for three to four hours (teleconference Kuntoro with Tohoku University).