As the Jakarta Post says today
, it has been exactly one month since the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami devastated parts of Aceh and North Sumatra. Such time should be sufficient for us to assess and absorb the implications of this unprecedented calamity, not only for those directly in the path of the disaster, but also for the rest of the nation.
Coming home in the mobile market that is Jakarta's commuter train service, I was offered a VCD of the tsunami for Rp.5,000 (= UK 30p / US 60c). I didn't buy and I'm now wondering if I should have.
The dilemma is that in this televisual world I do feel it is important to have a record of what will probably be the most significant event in our lifetimes. Its Xmas timing, suddenness and ferocity and our seeming incapacity to have mitigated its effects through prediction, warnings and adequate coastal defences have caused much needed examination of how we function as the self-called 'higher species'.
Yet, who would benefit from the purchase? Apart from a small commission to the folk trying to earn their daily rice, the bulk of the price would only benefit, if that's the right word, a Mr. Big somewhere who has lifted images from TV and is not interested in the plight of those who have lost nigh on everything.
Now if, say, Metro TV were to produce a documentary from its archives and were to donate the profits to its Tsunami Aid fund, then I feel the purchase would have some value.
Agam and his Gecko
are also fans of Metro TV reportage but I wonder if they have checked out Metro's website
; it is hardly user friendly. In fact, it is of no use whatsoever, which I find surprising given Metro's position as the major TV news provider.
There are some good things to arise from the tsunami. Apart from the spontaneous and unprecedented collective outpouring of donations, there are signs emerging of a significant shift in perceptions concerning the role of civic communal action and a recognition of our place in the ecosphere.
The Electric Lamb Mission
has now arrived in Meulaboh and is providing regular updates with pictures of its efforts to reach survivors who have not yet been helped on the west coast.
Already, the Sea Bridge is working! The mother ship enables large amounts of cargo to be moved amongst remote places.
On January 14th, Indonesia announced a massive replanting
The roots of the mangrove plants stabilize the sand and mud. In areas of the world where mangroves have been removed for development purposes, the coastline has been subject to rapid erosion. They also provide a habitat for wildlife and serve as a natural buffer to strong winds and waves ...
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has contributed to a report, available as a .pdf download
, on the environmental impact of the tsunami in Aceh.
Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director, said, "These latest findings from just one of the affected countries show that there have been significant consequences for the environment and for the livelihoods of local people as a result of the tsunami. They underline how the environment can be both a victim and both a buffer against vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters."
This issue, namely the central role of a healthy environment in long-term disaster risk reduction, had been taken on board by delegates at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction which closed last Friday (22nd) in the Japanese city of Kobe, he said.
"First and foremost we must continue to respond to the terrible human tragedy and humanitarian relief effort in Indonesia, and other countries affected by the tsunami," added Mr. Toepfer. "But, it is clear that the recovery and reconstruction process underway must also invest in the environmental capital of natural resources, the forests, mangroves, and coral reefs that are nature's buffer to such disasters and their consequences," he said.
Among critical coastal habitats in Aceh and North Sumatra, 25,000 hectares (ha) of mangroves, 30 % of 97,250 ha of previously existing coral reefs, and 20 % of 600 ha of seegrass beds have been damaged according to the new report. The economic loss is valued at $118.2 million, $332.4 million, and $2.3 million respectively.
, the Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) in emergency session, stressed that "the future of tourism in the impacted region highly depends on a normal tourism process in destinations so popular among thousands of tourists, seeking relaxation in unspoilt nature among friendly hosts.
So they won't be going in droves to Aceh then.