Bringing Out the Unique Charm of Banda Aceh

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Many people came to know Banda Aceh when it was severely hit by a tsunami in 2004, which claimed thousands of lives and destroyed livelihoods. What they might have missed to learn is that this Indonesian city is called the “Veranda of Mecca” because it is the first gateway of Islam in the archipelago.

Islamic influence is reflected in the daily life of its people and architecture, thus in the aftermath of the tsunami, the need to renew the unique character of the city, along with plans to boost tourism and economic activities became the basis for developing infrastructure investments in its old central business district (CBD).

In 2009, CDIA supported the city to meet this objective by completing a pre-feasibility study (PFS) that recommended three projects in Peunayong, part of the old downtown where heritage buildings, commercial establishments and high-density residential areas are located. The projects included: 1) the revitalization of the old CBD, 2) improvement of its wastewater treatment and drainage, and 3) development of the Keudah bus terminal.

Ten years since then, the monitoring team of CDIA went back to Banda Aceh to track the progress and impact of its interventions. It found out that the city has partially implemented two of the three projects with estimated investment of USD 8.1 million sourced from the national government.

“The CDIA PFS intervention back in 2009 and its associated capacity building support activities enabled us to think out of the box,” said Ir. Bahagia, City Director of Banda Aceh City Government.

In revitalizing the old CBD in Peunayong, the city government has completed the rehabilitation of pedestrian walkways in major streets. On the other hand, the landscaping and construction of a 3-km river walk along Krueng Aceh are still ongoing. Other proposed investments from CDIA’s PFS will be implemented using future allocations from the city and national governments.

In terms of the wastewater treatment and drainage improvement, the city has built communal wastewater treatment and drainage facilities in 4 locations, although only the facility in Peunayong market is now operational, serving some 50 households and market stalls.

The city is a recipient of IDR 100 billion support from the Department of Public Works for the construction of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and drainage pipes. The development has been stalled with the discovery of some historical artifacts, but once all WWTPs become fully operational, some 20,000 households representing about 40% of the city population will benefit.

In developing the 1.05 hectare Keudah Terminal into a multi-use complex to harness its high economic, touristic and social potential, the city government has established a public-private partnership team to link the project to private sector financing. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, finally in 2018, it was able to attract a reputable private investor. Yet, due to the high cost of the project, local partners are now being sourced for additional funds.

What CDIA has derived from its monitoring is that, despite the challenges in implementing the projects, the strong project ownership demonstrated by key city officials and the continuous support of the national government will enable to PFS-recommended projects to move forward. Soon, with its unique charm brought to the fore, Banda Aceh will be known as a premier tourist destination and economic hub in the Aceh Province.

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