Tapanuli And Development

After being left isolated and undeveloped for 61 years, the five districts in North Tapanuli regency in North Sumatra are catching up with the rest of the country.

The PT Toba Pulp Lestari company recently donated Rp 1.8 billion to North Tapanuli, part of an annual community development assistance grant is gives to eight regencies in North Sumatra.

The Tarutung, Sipoholon, Garoga, Pagaran and Parmonangan districts have used the money to construct roads and bridges, as well as education and irrigation facilities.

Jonson Ritonga, a village chief in Garoga, said the residents were grateful for the new roads and bridges. Farmers had found bringing their harvests into town difficult as they had to rely on horses.

"It's hard for me to describe how hard it was for farmers to carry their harvests, like rice, coffee, rubber and corn, from the village to the city since there was no road and the forest was thick. It took days from our village to get to our destination," Jonson told The Jakarta Post.

He said it took residents of Sihulambu, on the border of North Tapanuli and South Tapanuli regencies, a three-day round trip to reach Garoga market, where they sold their harvests and bought basic goods.

"We hope the government will continue development here. This is the first time we have experienced development since the country's independence 61 years ago," he said.

North Tapanuli and the other seven regencies in North Sumatra that receive the annual donation from the company, Dairi, Humbang Hasundutan, Pakpak Bharat, Samosir, Simalungun, South Tapanuli and Toba Samosir, contain 14 districts and 255,162 people. The area was once called the province's "map of poverty".

Former North Tapanuli mayor R.E. Nainggolan, who now heads the province's development planning agency, said many parts of the regency were still untouched by development and because of its limited infrastructure it was still regarded as poor.

"Besides North Tapanuli, there are still six other regencies where development is moving at slow pace due to poor infrastructure," he said, adding that these were Central Tapanuli, Dairi, Nias, Pakpak Bharat, Samosir and South Nias.

Lambertus Siregar, a representative of Toba Pulp Lestari, said the company set aside 1 percent of its net pulp sales annually to assist development in the region.

He said the other seven regencies had also received Rp 1.8 billion for the 2003-2005 period and that as of 2005, the company had distributed a total of 18.2 billion to the eight regencies.

Developments bring Tapanuli districts out of isolation

National News - December 04, 2006

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan


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