Indonesians Left to Count the Cost of Widespread Flooding in Jakarta

Markus Junianto Sihaloho Jakarta Globe 20 Jan 14;

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

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.

Floods force thousands to evacuate in Indonesian capital
Kanupriya Kapoor PlanetArk 21 Jan 14;

Monsoon rains have inundated parts of the Indonesian capital, forcing more than 30,000 people to evacuate and posing a challenge for its wildly popular governor, Joko Widodo, a possible presidential candidate.

Soldiers were deployed to help nearly 50,000 residents in the sprawling city of 10 million people, as floodwaters reached three meters (9.8 ft) in some districts, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said.

Last year's rainy season brought Jakarta to a standstill, causing a river in the city to breach its banks and swamp the central business district, leaving thousands stranded and causing $580 million in damage to property and companies.

Heavy rains are forecast this week, potentially worsening floods which have killed seven people, mostly from electrocution, and forced thousands to seek refuge at temporary shelters, including schools and mosques.

Jokowi, as the governor is known locally, came to office in late 2012 with promises to improve the city's creaky infrastructure, strained by chronic floods and traffic. The presidential favorite has since launched a number of initiatives to alleviate flooding, including clearing riverbanks of illegal housing and rubbish, and creating more green spaces and drainage to absorb rainwater.

But until those efforts show results, he could face criticism over flood management, especially if the waters rise and more districts are affected. The floods have already caused about $80 million in damage, said the Disaster Mitigation Agency.

"Last year we started clearing the riverbanks and dredging the canals to allow water to flow more smoothly, but it's a slow process and the results will only show in five or 10 years," said Eko Hariadi, spokesman for the city administration.

Immense popular support has put Jokowi far ahead of rivals such as former general Prabowo Subianto and tycoon Aburizal Bakrie in opinion polls. But Jokowi has not declared his candidacy, nor has the party he is affiliated with, the opposition PDI-P, said whether it will back him. That decision rests with former president and party leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of the country's founding ruler.

Heavy rains also hit other parts of the archipelago, including North Sulawesi province where flash floods left 18 dead and more than 80,000 homeless last week.

(Editing by Jason Szep)