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March 11, 2019

Sharing the Great East Japan Earthquake Experience in Indonesia: Supporting Sulawesi’s Reconstruction Plan

It has been eight years since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. Even today, the affected areas in Tohoku continue to face various challenges to recovery, such as regional industry and community restoration, as well as collective relocation.

In that context, JICA is partnering with local governments in the affected areas and sharing their experiences with developing countries that have also been severely affected by earthquakes and tsunamis, with the aim of advancing recovery initiatives together. To assist disaster recovery efforts in the Central Sulawesi Province in Indonesia, in January of this year JICA launched a new technical cooperation project. In order to promote appropriate and efficient reconstruction projects and develop infrastructure and communities that are more disaster-resilient, through the cooperation, JICA is supposed to make use of the recovery experiences and lessons learned by Higashi Matsushima City in Miyagi Prefecture and Kamaishi City in Iwate Prefecture as one of its references.

Higashi Matsushima City and Kamaishi City staff convey their experiences with “resident-driven recovery mechanisms”

photoTakafumi Kawaguchi at Higashi Matsushima City’s Recovery Policy Section speaks at the Recovery Seminar

JICA held “Seminar on Accelerating Recovery and Reconstruction in Central Sulawesi” in Indonesia in Palu on the island of Sulawesi and in Jakarta on February 11 and 12. Speaking to local administrators, three staff members from Higashi Matsushima City in Miyagi Prefecture and Kamaishi City in Iwate Prefecture reported on their respective initiatives that focused on resident-driven recovery efforts.

The Sulawesi earthquake of September 2018 caused untold damage, with over 2,700 dead or missing and approximately 100,000 houses destroyed (as of January 8, 2019). In the wake of the tsunami and landslides triggered by soil liquefaction, the collective relocation of residents from the affected areas is one major challenge. Higashi Matsushima City and Kamaishi City also faced similar resident collective relocation issues in areas heavily damaged by the tsunami after the earthquake, and learned a lot of lessons from that experience.

photoScene from the Recovery Seminar. Kazunori Ishii, Strategic Management and International Affairs, Hisashi Konno, Recovery Promotion Division Secretariat at Kamaishi City

At the seminar, Takafumi Kawaguchi, a chief at Higashi Matsushima City’s Recovery Policy Section, emphasized, “In the relocation site selection process, we focused on the proposals that came from all the residents.” Kawaguchi noted that they were able to get a more than 80% approval rate from residents at the relocation planning stage. “A resident-driven mechanism creation process is essential to forming a consensus on a reconstruction plan,” he stressed.

Hisashi Konno, an assistant director at Kamaishi City’s Recovery Promotion Division Secretariat, shared an example where discussions with residents were insufficient initially, as the city proceeded quickly with its recovery efforts. This made it difficult to establish a consensus. Konno said, “With urban planning, it is best to proceed while remembering that ‘haste makes waste.’ Careful discussions with residents hold the key to recovery.” In Kamaishi City’s case, a wide range of experts from different fields, including those in medical, welfare, economic and construction disciplines, joined recovery policy discussions. Konno also talked about how they acted as a bridge to link residents and administrations.

Seminar participant Mr. Syaifullah Djafar, Head of Road and Spatial Planning Office, Central Province, said, “While Indonesia and Japan have different cultures and ways of thinking, my impression is that dialogue between local governments and residents is extremely important for advancing steady progress in recovery.”

JICA provides comprehensive support for Sulawesi recovery efforts

photoConducting survey on Sulawesi shortly after the disaster

To support the formulation and implementation of Sulawesi’s reconstruction plan, in January of this year JICA started “The Project for Development of Regional Disaster Risk Resilience Plan in Central Sulawesi.” In response to a request for assistance made by the Indonesian government shortly after the disaster struck in 2018, JICA dispatched a mission to survey the local situation and held extensive discussions with Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency.

While making use of the knowledge gained and lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake recovery, in addition to formulation of plan for disaster-resistant infrastructure, land use and building regulations, JICA is comprehensively supporting disaster-resilient town planning that factors in the revival of regional industries and community rehabilitation.

In charge of the Project Takahiro Izumi of JICA’s Infrastructure and Peacebuilding Department said, “We regard recovery of victims’ daily lives as a priority. ‘Hard’ aspects like infrastructure are where discussions tend to concentrate. While these are important, ‘soft’ aspects such as reviving livelihoods and rehabilitating communities are also crucial for therecovery of victims’ daily lives. In cooperation with Higashi Matsushima City and Kamaishi City, we would like to support the rapid improvement of people’s lives in Indonesia.”

“Mutual reconstruction” of communities affected by the Sumatra Coast Major Earthquake and Higashi Matsushima brings tourists and other benefits

photoTuna fishing technical assistance in Banda Aceh

JICA has been sharing its experiences acquired from the Great East Japan Earthquake with developing countries.

Starting in 2013, JICA teamed up with Higashi Matsushima City, and as a grass roots technical cooperation project, supported reconstruction efforts in Indonesia’s Banda Aceh in Aceh Province, which suffered devastation from the 2004 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra and tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

As both cities share industries in common including fishing and tourism, city workers and residents visited each other’s disaster sites. As a result of continued opinion exchanges and on-site experiences, and by making use of tourism initiatives that incorporate fishing and local resources, a movement in Banda Aceh to attract people came about. The exchange also led to the operation of joint farms and the holding of regional product sales events.

photoBanda Aceh's joint farm

A variety of events were also held in Higashi Matsushima City after residents returned from visits to Banda Aceh. Furthermore, with trainees from Banda Aceh coming to Japan to study fishing techniques, cooperative activities have helped foster youth development in the city. Kawaguchi, the chief at Higashi Matsushima City’s Recovery Policy Section, said, “We experienced similar damage, and by observing our steady and continued efforts toward recovery, we stimulate each other. Our activities have provided us with an opportunity to re-examine ourselves.”

Aminullah Usman, Mayor of Banda Aceh, expressing his hopes, said, “Based on what our trainees learned in Higashi Matsushima, oyster farming, basket fishing, farming and other visible economic activities are now getting on track. Banda Aceh faces high unemployment and poverty, and we would like to maintain our cooperative relationship with Higashi Matsushima to help address these issues.”


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