Providing work and saving money

A UNDP programme ensures no wastage as Indonesian families rebuild after a severe earthquake.

Engineer Hamzah Tjakunu points to a school damaged by an earthquake in 2018.

Standing near a pile of wooden window panels, engineer Hamzah Tjakunu outlines his plan to tear down a quake-stricken school that appears intact but likely sustained major damage that makes it unsafe. The school is one of tens of thousands of buildings damaged by a massive temblor that hit Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province in September 2018.

After surveying the four classroom brick building, Hamzah lists many items that can be salvaged. From the zinc ceilings to solid wooden door panels, it has a lot of material that can be reused.

Workers salvage materials from a quake-hit house.

“Our Cash-for-Work programme doesn’t demolish damaged buildings in an outright fashion,” says Hamzah. “What sets us apart is that we always identify items that we can salvage from the damaged buildings. We are helping the owner to save costs in the rebuilding process.”

Hamzah is a field engineer working for UNDP’s cash-for-work programme, which aims to empower local communities by paying them to clear earthquake debris — and in some cases demolish buildings deemed unsafe to use.

Cash-for-Work falls under UNDP’s $US1.4 million rapid disaster relief programme, with funding from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund and UNDP. It builds on UNDP’s vast experience in reconstruction and rebuilding, including in Nepal after a major earthquake in 2015 and the Philippines after typhoon Pablo in 2012.

The first phase kicked off in the second week of November and concluded just before Christmas, employing some 300 villagers to clear debris from quake-stricken homes and schools in several villages.

In Jogo One village, where the school is located, around 80 damaged buildings have been demolished. The second, larger phase is set to begin in January and employ at least 3,200 villagers, 40 percent of them women.

Quake-hit houses are assessed for re-usable materials.

At the heart of this cash-for-work ‘meticulous demolition’ programme is the so-called ‘3M approach’ of Milih, Milah, Membongkar — meaningselect, separate, and dismantle’.

According to Hamzah’s preliminary calculation, the first stage reclaimed some $US500 in salvaged construction materials in Jogo One village alone.

“We have so many homeowners coming to us wishing to be included in our programme so they could reuse materials from their excavated houses,” he says.

Rather than using an excavator, the demolition process requires at least 30 people with a sturdy cable attached to a building — which workers then pull until the building collapses. This has saved hundreds of zinc ceilings and wooden panels.

Shopkeeper Franky Lamakampali is a quake survivor who benefited from recycling. With support from Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, this father of one rebuilt the front of his damaged home, just in time to celebrate Christmas. With limited funding, he can rebuild only some parts of his home with new wooden materials — and this is where using salvaged parts from his old home are handy.

Franky Lamakampaly and his wife stand outside their recently rebuilt house using recycled materials from his quake-hit house.

“The door panel is from the previous construction of the house, and I’m still keeping some of the window panels for future completion. Those items are very expensive, and I’m going to use them when we receive more funding to fully rebuild,” says Franky, 35, who also takes part in clearing the debris.

He uses the money earned from Cash-for-Work to restock items at his small shop, which sells basic household items such as eggs, cooking oil, and biscuits.

In line with its zero-waste principle, the programme has also reused building debris to repair damaged roads. Not far from the school, Hamzah proudly shows part of a broken road, now leveled and restored with debris and sand. Though less than a kilometre long, the repaired part has reconnected residents in this farming village of 4900 residents — a modest repair with far-reaching benefits.

Story by Tomi Soetjipto; Photos by Hamzah Tjakunu