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Jakarta floods recede, but worries loom

Publication Date : 13-02-2014


The city administration on Wednesday lifted the flood emergency status, indicating that the worst is over for Jakarta, at least for now.

Two consecutive years of severe flooding, however, has left many wondering if the severe flooding has now become an annual problem.

Nining, who lost most of her clothes and her television during the floods this year, fears that severe flooding will happen every year and force her to take shelter for weeks.

Her neighbourhood in Rawajati, Pancoran in South Jakarta is a flood-prone area. She and her neighbours had learned to deal with minor flooding but the increasingly regular severe flooding has become real problem.

“In the past I would spend two nights during floods because the water receded quickly. But this year, I spent over three weeks in the shelter,” she said.

This year over 89,000 people were displaced while 23 people were killed during the recent floods, which hit around 100 subdistricts. Last year, several business districts across the city were affected by the floods, which killed 27 people and displaced over 40,000.

Most Jakartans are familiar with the “five-year cycle” theory with regard to severe flooding. The city experienced a series of severe floods in 1976, 1996, 2002, 2007, 2013 and 2014.

Firdaus Ali, a water specialist from the University of Indonesia, said the five-year cycle theory was now irrelevant.

“Overpopulation, spatial planning and urban development have increased the risk of flooding,” he told The Jakarta Post.

He said although the city had a spatial planning bylaw, the administration, residents and developers never carried adhered to the bylaw, which designated specific areas for business districts, housing development and water catchments.

According to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), the rainfall patterns in 2013 were different to this year.

“In 2013, we saw a volumes of rainfall for consecutive days. In 2014, the clouds were thicker and more scattered,” said Hari Tirto, head of the Meteorology information subdirectorate at the agency.

The city administration and central government are currently carrying out massive dredging projects in the main rivers for the first time in decades. This year, the administration allocated around 5.1 trillion rupiah (US$421.9 million) of the 72 trillion rupiah budget for flood mitigation, specifically for waterway dredging, land acquisition for reservoirs and the construction of pump stations in Angke, West Jakarta and Ancol, North Jakarta.

Firdaus said the dredging project would not completely protect the city flooding.

“Even if the city dredges all the rivers and reservoirs as well as building new reservoirs, it will not be enough to make up for all the lack water catchment areas,” he said.

He said the city only had 9.8 per cent green areas and 1.3 per cent blue areas, while according to the plan, it should have 30 per cent green areas and 5 per cent blue areas.

The city, he said, should take certain measures, such as harvesting rainwater, managing the development in the upstream area, controlling illegal settlements along the rivers, reducing waste as well as monitoring developers that build on water catchment areas.

“It will be easier to control the developers than the squatters because developers always have a choice, while squatters don’t,” he said.

Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Wido-do said that he also targeted developers that had violated regulations and would not have mercy on them.

He said the city had sent warning letters to developers that violated regulations. He also promised to take a second step for those who did not comply with the warning letters.

“Just wait and see,” he said.


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