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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Map of AcehAceh (pronounced Ah-chay) is a special territory (daerah istimewa, or "special area") of Indonesia, located on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra. Its full name is Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam; past spellings of its name include Acheh, Atjeh and Achin. The people living in Aceh primarialy call themselves Acehnese.


In the past, Aceh was known for its political independence and fierce resistance to control by outsiders, including the former Dutch colonists and the Indonesian government. From 1976 until the tsunami in 2004, Aceh was torn by a separatist conflict waged by the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka - GAM) against the Jakarta government rooted in issues over control of resources, and over cultural and religious issues. Aceh has substantial natural resources, including oil & gas - some estimates put Aceh gas reserves as being the largest in the world. Relative to most of Indonesia, it is a religiously conservative area.


Aceh was the closest point of land to the epicenter of the massive 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which triggered a tsunami that devastated much of the western coast of the region, including part of the capital of Banda Aceh. From 130,000 - 238,000 persons were dead or missing, with a further 500,000 plus being made homeless. One positive aspect of this tragedy has been a peace agreement between the government of Indonesia and GAM, with the signing of a MoU on 15th August, 2005. As of February 2006, the peace has held strong, with most Aceh residents optimistic for continued peace.


The population of Aceh before Dec 2004 tsunami was 4.271 million (Data from KPU (General Election Commitee) in 2004). The population now is 4,031,589 (As 15 September 2005), almost two percent of the Indonesian population.


As of February 2006, more than a year after the tsunami, a large number of people are still living in barrack-style temporary living centers (TLC) or tents. Reconstruction is visible everywhere, but due to the sheer scale of the disaster, logistical issues, and the lack of funding, progress is slow.


Most Acehnese however, are very optimistic for the future. Many see the tsunami as a mixed blessing, bringing peace and an international presence to Aceh. As homes are being built and peoples basic needs are met, the people are also looking to improve the quality of education, increase tourism, and develop responsible, sustainable industry. Well-qualified educators are in high demand in Aceh.


Tsunami disaster


The western coastal areas of Aceh, including the cities of Banda Aceh, Calang, and Meulaboh, were among the areas hardest-hit by the tsunami resulting from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake on December 26, 2004. While estimates vary, approximately 230,000 people were killed by the earthquake and tsunami in Aceh, and about 400,000 were left homeless.


While parts of Banda Aceh, the capital, were unscathed, the areas closest to the water, especially in Kampung Jawa, were completely destroyed. Most of the rest of the western coast and outlying islands were severely damaged, and many towns completely disappeared. Other towns on Aceh's west coast hit by the disaster include Leupung, Lamno, Patek, Calang, Teunom, and the island of Simeulue. Affected or destroyed towns on the region's north & east coast include Pidie, Samalanga, and Lhokseumawe.


The area is slowly being rebuilt after the disaster. The government initially proposed the creation of a two-kilometer buffer zone along low-lying coastal areas, within which permanent construction is not permitted. This proposal was unpopular among some local inhabitants and proved impractical in most situations, especially fishing families that are dependent on living near to the sea.


Most of the reconstruction work is being performed by local people using a mix of traditional methods and partial prefabricated structures, with funding coming from many international organizations and individuals, governments, and the people themselves.


Read more about Aceh on Wikipedia.

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