Indonesians Left to Count the Cost of Widespread Flooding

Residents crowd a sports center in Otista, East Jakarta after their homes were inundated on Sunday. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

Residents crowd a sports center in Otista, East Jakarta after their homes were inundated on Sunday. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

The climate agency has rejected statements by Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo saying that the flooding in Jakarta had been caused by natural factors such as high volumes of rainfall.

“Rainfall in the capital in 2014 has been lower compared to 2013 when a bigger flood happened,” said Achmad Zukri, head of extreme early warning division at the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

He added that this year’s rain had mostly inundated the areas of West Jakarta, East Jakarta and South Jakarta.

“Rains that have been falling since the beginning of this year are not as heavy as in 2013,” Achmad said. “Rainfall has been patchy since New Year’s Eve, unlike last year, when the heavy rain fell non-stop for several consecutive days.”

Among areas that have seen a drop in rain levels are Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta, Kemayoran in Central Jakarta, Halim Perdanakusuma in East Jakarta, Cengkareng and Kedoya in West Jakarta as well as areas in South Jakarta such as Pakubuwono, Pasar Minggu and Lebak Bulus.

During a visit to Kelapa Gading in North Jakarta, Joko said torrential rain had been a main cause of flooding in the area.

“There has been a lot of heavy rain around Pulogadung [East Jakarta], and the tide has been high. That is where the problem lies,” he said.

Members of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) also condemned the governor’s statements, saying that the flooding and landslides were mainly caused by the clearing of forests for industrial use.

“The water’s volume can’t be changed. What has changed is the land’s ability to absorb that water,” said Mukri Friatra, a disaster management specialist at the nongovernmental organization. “They’re saying the flood is from God, when in fact, rain should be a blessing.”

On Saturday, chief of BMKG’s meteorology center Mulyono Prabowo said in Jakarta that the agency has yet to pinpoint the highest level of rainfall this year, adding that the highest ever recorded was at 350 millimeters per day in 2007 at Pondok Betung, South Tangerang.

“The past few days have seen about 200 millimeters fall per day. In general, rain has been quite high in the Greater Jakarta area, with at least 70 to 80 millimeters recorded on a daily basis, although several areas have seen 150 millimeters,” he said.

Despite the criticism launched against Joko, a resident living near the Ciliwung River said he did not want to blame the governor and that his living near the river could be part of the problem.

“Joko has done his best, but who can resist nature? We have built our homes on the river, but what can we do? This is our home,” said 43-year-old Agus, who lives by the river in Kampung Pulo, as quoted by Liputan6.com.

Agus said he has lived just 10 meters from the Ciliwung since 1986 and that he did not have enough money to move to a safer location.

Chief of the National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN) Fasli Jalal attributed the flooding to the capital’s population and urbanization.

“The growing population has resulted in the establishment of residential areas that subsequently limit the soil’s ability to absorb the water,” he said.

“If the population continues to increase, and land remains limited, then houses will be built closer to one another and will sometimes have to be built on the riverside,” said Wendy Hartanto, also from BKKBN. Too many buildings built on the land means that the water isn’t being absorbed, he said.

Wendy called on the government not to only continue promoting its family planning program but also to be stricter with urban planning regulations, especially regarding the establishment of residential areas near the rivers.

“In addition, there should be a proper solution to the flow of urbanization, which has seen many people flock to Jakarta, many of whom are lower income earners unable to afford their own properties so they move to cheaper areas like riversides and other areas that are not supposed to be residential areas,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Joko on Sunday said he will soon be holding a meeting with the Public Works Minister’s directorate general and West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan next week to discuss plans to establish a spillway from the Ciliwung to the Cisadane River, close to their source in the mountains near Bogor, West Java.

Joko explained that the 1.9-kilometer spillway connecting the two rivers would be of great help in minimizing flooding in the city though residents in Tangerang, to the west of Jakarta, are concerned the proposal will just move the flooding from the capital to their city. The Jakarta Globe

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