Indonesia: Heavy rains cause harvest failures, landslides

Ganug Nugroho Adi, Arya Dipa and Wahyoe Boediwardhana The Jakarta Post 25 Nov 16;

Aftermath: A West Java Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) officer examines a house hit by a landslide in Nyalindung district, West Bandung regency, West Java, on Wednesday. At least five landslides have occurred in the regency in the past week, displacing more than 100 families.(JP/Arya Dipa)

Bad weather in a number of regions over the last few days has caused problems ranging from harvest failures and unstable soil to floods and landslides.

In Central Java, tobacco farmers on the slopes of Mount Merbabu and Mount Merapi in Klaten and Boyolali regencies have suffered losses of up to hundreds of millions of rupiah because of harvest failures caused by rough weather.

Many have been forced to sell their land and livestock to cover loans as well as to fund the planting of vegetables as the tobacco season has ended.

Sunardi, one such farmer, said he had planted 7 hectares of tobacco in Cepogo, Boyolali, and had so far harvested very little of the crop, and none of what had been harvested had been sold because of its poor quality.

“It contains too much water. I don’t know what to do with it,” said Sunardi, adding that the harvest was simply being stored in a warehouse.

He said farmers in the region had counted on a big factory in East Java to buy their tobacco, but this year the factory did not buy the commodity because of the decline in quality.

Another farmer, Marsono, who experienced something similar, said that a hectare of tobacco needed some Rp 50 million to cultivate, all funded by loans.

Farmer Rasiyem of Solodiran, Manisrenggo, Klaten, said that this year’s harvest was the worst in the last five years as it could not be sold at all. “I have sold three of my cows to cover the loans to plant tobacco in a 250-square-meter field,” she said.

Separately chairman of the National Commission to Save Clove Cigarettes’ (KNPK) Klaten branch, Aryanta Sigit Suwanta, estimated that the total losses experienced by tobacco farmers in Klaten amounted to over Rp 10 billion.

“Tobacco farmers in Boyolali, Klaten and Temanggung, I think, are experiencing the same. This year’s harvest is really a disaster for tobacco farmers,” he said.

In West Bandung regency, West Java, heavy rains have left the soil in a number of regions unstable.

Head of the western region soil movement division of the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) Agus Budianto said most of the unstable soil occurred on hillsides. “All because of the heavy rainfall,” Agus said.

He said the PVMBG had mapped the soil movement potential across Indonesia, and the reports had been distributed to all regencies and cities throughout the country.

He said the regions categorized as prone to soil movement should not dig into hillsides to develop roads or convert forests into plantation areas.

“The soil will easily become loose and highly moldy, such that when there is extreme rain the soil will become unstable,” he said.

In East Java the main road connecting Trenggalek and Ponorogo regencies was reopened on Thursday morning after being closed for three days as a result of landslides following several days of heavy downpours over the region.

Head of the vigilance division of East Java’s Political and National Unity Agency, Eddy Supriyanto said that two units of heavy equipment had been deployed to clear the debris from the road.

The road surface at Kilometer 16, in Tugu district, Trenggalek regency, was covered in debris from the landslide, causing traffic congestion in both directions for up to five kilometers.

“Rain was still pouring during the clear-up and workers had to be extra careful in removing the debris from the road,” Eddy said.

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