Sunday, February 04, 2007

2007 Flood in Jakarta

On February 2nd I got an SMS from a dear friend that told me about this flood disaster happened again throughout greater Jakarta. At first, I thought it’s flood as usual – well, Jakarta always experiences annual flood during the rainy season. However, a number of SMS coming in continuously afterwards has made me realized that it’s bad, really bad. The media in Singapore and Malaysia covers this flood news too. I called my parent’s and texted my team in Jakarta and was relieved when I knew that they’re OK.

When I asked the lady at Garuda’s check-in counter in Changi International Airport about the condition on the flight to Jakarta, she said that the flight would be on time. (I heard that yesterday Garuda had to re-schedule some of its flights to and from Jakarta due to the flood – their crews and passengers couldn’t reach the airport. Also, the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport was closed for couple of hours.) Yeah, the flight was on time and I landed around 4:05PM in Jakarta. The airport seemed less crowded than usual. My adventure was just to begin…. I’d like to share what I experienced during my “unique” trip from the airport to my house today.

All the cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles were slowing down when they reached the first toll gates outside the airport. The radio kept repeating to avoid toll road in front of Tarumanegara University. So, I took Tanjung Priok – Cawang – Kebon Jeruk route instead of Grogol – Kebon Jeruk route. As expected, long lines already congested the toll road in Tanjung Priok – Cawang – Kebon Jeruk direction. The grey cloud covered the city and it looked threatening. Would a heavy rain coming down tonight? I could see some young guys standing on the flooded toll road asking for money (bahasa Indonesia-nya malakin).

The traffic moved at about 20 to 30 km/hour. On the other side of the toll road I saw motorcycles ran in the toll road (prohibited during normal condition) and the one way toll road became two way traffics.

By the time I was tired of sitting in the car and wondered when I could reach home I saw many cars (even the Beemer) parked on the side of the toll road and their passengers were looking down and around the flooded area. Despite this grave situation, Jakartans could still have fun – by being tourists to flooded areas. Hmm, yes, I was in Kelapa Gading and Sunter areas – some areas worst hit by the flood. I also saw some street vendors offered bottled water, cigarette, etc. to these situational tourists *smile*. Well, I also witnessed the open pick-ups with volunteers ready to distribute aids.

Then the majestic six, or probably eight, apartment and business towers belong to either Summarecon Agung or Agung Podomoro Group came into sight and boasted their concrete and steel structures on the flooded Kelapa Gading area. Sad… it’s so sad to see the impact of greed and ignorance to the living environment. I checked my watch… an hour already passed.

I texted all my friends that I thought reside in the affected areas to check on their condition. Wenda who lives in Bekasi are still staying at home because the water already flooded her house. She said it could reach adult chest. Eltje's residence experienced blackout since January 31. My aunt had to take refuge to her son's house in Bogor because of this flood. I called my mom but couldn’t go through… It seemed the line was not working well *sigh*.

I got home around seven at night. Yes, it took me about two and half hours to reach home from the airport – a trip that only lasts about 30 to 45 minutes in ordinary days.

I’m praying for those who are still in the flooded areas. I do hope the water could recede soon and condition returns to normal earlier than expected.

I bet you already watched a much wider coverage about this big flood on TV, newspapers, and radio. I don’t think I have to re-broadcast it. Follow this link if you have to: Floods hit some 75% of Jakarta, 25 killed.

News from Urban Poor Consortium
Jakarta is Paralyzed: the Failure of Jakarta's Government on Overcome the Flood

Jakarta is flooded. Due to the heavy rain since Thursday, February 1st 2007, Jakarta now is paralyzed. Almost all infrastructures in Jakarta are flooded and it blocked most activities of Jakarta's citizen. Up to February 4th 2007, 33 districts (spread in Jakarta's areas) are flooded with high of water reached to 2 metres and forced 53,354 people to refuge into temporary shelters i.e., local district offices, mosques, schools, public cemeteries, etc. They are now in terrible condition and suffered from diseases like cold, fever, cough, and skin diseases. The worst hit area that also forced many people to refuge is in East Jakarta where 5,000 people are now refuge to Santa Maria's school.

It is noted that 1,499 schools were closed, 15 of train station are flooded, and electricity, phone and internet line in some areas are disconnected. Flood has also taken victims where 12 people are dead due to the stream of flood and for being shock by the electricity.

Up to now, Jakarta's government has not, maximally, conduct actions to overcome the situation caused by flood. There are so many areas and people who were not, yet, being evacuated and have not received any of aids.

What happen now in Jakarta is contrary with previous statement stated by Jakarta's Governor, Sutiyoso. In his statement, Sutiyoso claimed that his government has already prepared on dealing and overcome the flood, which is a five years cycle of flood after big flood occurred in 2002. He stated that the government are equipped with flood emergency equipment that allocated from Jakarta's Local budget amount of IDR 255 billion and a back up fund amount of IDR 500 billion.

Even with that fund, Jakarta's Government are proved to be failed on anticipating the flood. The five years cycle of flood should have been anticipated since Jakarta experienced a pervious big flood in 2002. Compared with the flood in 2002, today's flood is even worse where water not only flooded area that considered near the river but spread, averagely, throughout all areas.

Toward the disaster, UPC and UPLINK, together with kampong's people are collaborating on giving the first aid. Together we formulate a team who start the activities by identifying all affected areas, especially on urban poor communities that have not received assistances, i.e., East Jakarta (Cipinang Besar Selatan, Prumpung and Pulogadung's riverbank), North Jakarta ( Semper, Kolong Tol Warakas, Kolong Tol Sungai Bambu, Pademangan, Teluk Gong), and West Jakarta (Blok Asin, Pekojan, Rawa Buaya).

Up to now, we have identified nine kampongs which spread in all areas: Cipinang Besar Selatan, Pulogadung, Bojong Pulo, Kebun Bayam, Kampung Sawah, Semper, Sungai Bambu, Warakas, and Rawa Buaya. Their basic and urgent necessities are ranging from logistic (medicine, blanket, clothes, sanitary napkins, baby diapers, instant food, and milk) to temporary shelters (tent, light, generator set, and mattress). Aside distributing those logistic aids, the team also will build a public kitchen in some areas to supply refugee's necessities.

In the next few days, basic necessities fulfillment is a priority but we will move on advocating the issue especially on city planning policy and allocation of local budget as main factors for causing the flood.

A Paper titled Flooding in Jakarta presented during the 1st International Conference on Urban History (August 23-25, 2004).

Conclusion (from the above paper)
From its beginnings Jakarta has been prone to flooding due to its unfavourably low location on the coast of the Java Sea. It is situated within the river basin of several rivers transporting large amounts of water during the rainy season. Although technically speaking solutions for the banjir problem may be envisaged, these will require enormous, unrealistic amounts of funding, while the technical specialists in this field are more and more inclined to think in remaining chances and probabilities of flooding instead of complete cures.

The engineers agree that the key to flood prevention lays in a risk management approach taking into account both probabilities and consequences, and that the focus in Jakarta should initially be on the rehabilitation of the existing infrastructure. The problem is aggravated by the rapid urbanization along with severe water extraction leading to steady sinking of the ground level. To raise the level by means of addition of sand leads to the reduction of part of the benefit from the heavy load causing further sinking. That is why measures on spatial planning and the directions of urbanization should be tied in with the rehabilitation envisaged.

Future policies to reduce the risk of banjir in Jakarta should be based on comprehensive water catchment area policy and inclusive urbanization planning. As the past colonial and post colonial anti-flooding measures were often strongly lacking behind the rapid growth of the city – parts of them being implemented when the city population and built area were extended already two to three times – comprehensive water and urbanization planning should be aimed for.

Perhaps the main solution has to be found in an elaborate system of polders. Such polders already exist in Jakarta and in the colonial period additional proposals for polder extension were launched. A sinking city probably should be turned into a polder city. It is expected that Jakarta will count over twenty million people in 2015. Without doubt this future development will require large flood control and flood risk management investments.

As history shows that government agencies are often too late in implementing flood control measures, it is clear that the cultural aspect can not be considered a strong incentive for improvement. During the centuries the inhabitants and government officials of Jakarta have become acquainted with the inconveniences, which are likely been forgotten all too soon with the beginning of the dry season.

Moreover, they do not affect all parts of the city to the same extent, although in the more severe cases of banjir also richer areas are not able to escape, particularly when the city comes to a virtual standstill as we have seen earlier for the year 2002. Notwithstanding the fact that at this very moment many small and large water infrastructure improvements are in the course of being implemented in Jakarta, the overall aim should be to tackle the problem on the basis of one comprehensive cultural, water catchment area and urbanization plan. But even then the specialists will point out that what can be aimed at is just risk reduction.

We heard a lot about the above conclusion to solve banjir in Jakarta – and yet years went by and no strategic and directive measures are taken to address this chronic issue. The Indonesian's way of coping with disasters is very unique – a lot of brouhaha when any disaster happens (critiques, recommendation, task forces, volunteers) but then the people could easily forget... And yet when these things happen again we’re all back to square one – blaming, critiquing, etc…. over and over again. Isn’t it called stupidity?

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