Indonesia: ‘River schools’ aim to boost preservation, stop floods

Ganug Nugroho Adi The Jakarta Post 24 Sep 16;

In a bid to raise public awareness on the importance of rivers and how to deal with floods, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is developing river education centers, known as “river schools”, in flood-prone regions.

Once the public understands the importance of rivers, it will be easier to convince them to take part in river preservation programs.

The latest education center opened for the public is a river school in Sewu subdistrict, Jebres, Surakarta. The center was officially opened by the agency’s disaster risk reduction director Lilik Kurniawan.

Lilik said 23 regencies had established river schools so far and 50 others were expected to be established next year.

“We will continue this movement to preserve rivers,” Lilik said on Friday.

He added that the schools were expected to help improve people’s awareness on the importance of risk reduction, especially for floods.

“Of the 20 regions located along the riverbank of the Bengawan Solo River, 12 have expressed a commitment to preserving the river to control the risk of floods and landslides,” Lilik said.

Surakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Gatot Sutanto said river schools were different from schools in general. They were community-based learning programs on everything about rivers.

“In a river school, people will receive knowledge about river management, preservation and maintenance,” Gatot said.

Through river schools, he said, people were made aware of the potential dangers of rivers.

He said his side had prepared material for discussions, training and practical lessons to help volunteers learn at the schools.

“The point is, the people are given education on flood disaster risk reduction,” he said.

Sewu subdistrict head Henoch Sadono said over 100 volunteers had signed up for the schools. It is expected that the program will be attended by 1,000 volunteers next year.

He said in Surakarta the volunteers were divided into several groups, each with a supervised river. “Together with the community they will make the rivers healthy,” he said.

Henoch said river management in his area had actually been going on for the last year. Some river enthusiasts had even planted fragrant roots, horticulture and mapped out areas prone to flooding.

Separately, Surakarta Mayor FX Hadi “Rudy” Rudyatmo said his administration had prepared books on rivers and disaster mitigation and handling. He said the books had been provided in cooperation with the Surakarta-based Sebelas Maret University (UNS) and the BPPB.

Apart from that, he said every three months the Surakarta administration would also send a number of volunteers from river schools to participate in training on river management and disaster mitigation at the BNPB.

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