Tsunami-Ravaged Communities Focus on Sustainable Recovery

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According to the American Red Cross, given the scope of the disaster, the sluggish pace of rebuilding is to be expected.

Indonesia alone lost 141,000 homes, the relief agency reports, and construction will take some time if new homes are to be built in a thoughtful and responsible manner.

"There are no quick fixes to problems like these," Marissa Mahoney, a spokesperson for the Red Cross's tsunami recovery program, wrote in an e-mail.

Van Breda, of the World Wildlife Fund, said her team is working with relief organizations to make sure that timber used to build permanent shelter for tsunami survivors comes from sustainable sources.

According to the environmental organization, Indonesia's Aceh province will need an estimated 30.4 million cubic feet (860,000 cubic meters) of sawn timber for its reconstruction efforts over the next five years.

But with local forests already logged at a rate three times faster than they can regenerate, the environment is unable to handle the increased pressure.

"There's a bit of back and forth with the government over how much [timber] will be allowed to be removed or won't … it's a very dynamic situation," van Breda said.

To help protect the local forests and keep the rebuilding moving forward, the agency has arranged to receive contributions of responsibly sourced timber from U.S. companies.

Restoring Livelihoods

In addition to rebuilding homes, aid agencies are busy helping tsunami survivors rebuild their livelihoods in a way that will create long-term economic stability.

"It is bringing back what was there and expanding the depth of the skills in the community and capacity for capitalizing on the market," Oxfam's Parry said.

For example, the organization offers accounting classes to help merchants can keep better records and potentially grow their businesses, allowing them to train and hire more people in the community.

The World Wildlife Fund is developing plans to introduce modern aquaculture techniques to shrimp farmers in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. The nonprofit hopes this practice will reduce destruction of mangrove forests, which protect coasts from erosion.

On the island of Pulo Aceh in Indonesia, the American Red Cross is working with the community to find new sources of freshwater, since their water wells were contaminated with salt water.

"The Red Cross and other organizations will eventually leave these areas, but our objective is to make sure that the local communities will be able to provide for themselves for years to come," Mahoney said.

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