Environmental Recklessness Blamed for Jakarta Floods

JAKARTA, Indonesia, February 12, 2007 (ENS) – About 60 percent of the Indonesian capital Jakarta is flooded following days of torrential rains, which caused several rivers to overflow. Authorities say 50 people have died and 512,170 have been made homeless in the worst floods to hit Jakarta and surrounding areas in five years.

Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said the main reason for the flooding of Jakarta was the elimination of water catchment areas following the construction of large numbers of buildings.

“There are too many malls in the capital city,” the minister said of the shopping centers that have sprung up across Jakarta.

Seven levels of shopping at Blok M Plaza mall in Jakarta (Photo courtesy Jonathan McIntosh)

The minister told the Antara news agency that many developers have not paid enough attention to the ecological impact of their projects and have contructed buildings “recklessly” in water catchment areas.

Jakarta has experienced a construction boom since the late 1990s that has cleared forested areas in the low-lying city.

“Low awareness of the importance of conserving forests,” also contributed to the flooding, said Witoelar, adding that people should “help stop deforestation to reduce floods” which occur nearly every year.

A limited cabinet meeting at the presidential office today decided that the central government would give 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of rice in aid to every flood victim in Jakarta and the surrounding areas over the next two months.

The government and communities are now starting to clean up the mud and waste from areas where floods have receded. In many areas, people have dumped damaged furniture, household items and clothes beside the roads.

Aid agencies have joined government agencies in delivering relief to flood-stricken Jakartans.

Survivors attempt to cope in flooded Jakarta (Photo courtesy Charles)

The Indonesian Red Cross has deployed seven of its specialized rapid response teams and some 470 volunteers to flooded areas.
Hundreds of people are still thought to be trapped in their homes, while electricity and water supplies remain cut off in many parts of the city.

Telecommunications are disrupted in some areas, while transportation to most places is cut off, with major rail lines and several roads closed.

Nearly 200,000 people affected by the flooding are suffering from flood-related illnesses, but health officials say only 500 of them have gone to a hospital.

“We’re worried that the number of fatalities will rise since the heavy rains are expected to continue, threatening more floods,” says Iyang Sukandar, the secretary general of the Indonesian Red Cross. “We’re also worried about the spread of diseases, like diarrhea and dysentery because of the unsanitary conditions.”

Health officials fear flood-related illnesses could spread throughout Jakarta as the polluted waters are breeding diarrhea and skin conditions among the displaced.

The Indonesian Red Cross offers relief supplies to Jakarta’s flood survivors. (Photo courtesy IFRC)

The Health Ministry’s Crisis Center says the majority of sick people are suffering from diarrhea, dengue fever and severe respiratory problems.

The ministry is worried diseases could spread as people crowd into emergency shelters or return to homes without power or clean water.

Though flooding has receded in some parts of Jabodetabek and more people have returned home to start clean up of their surrounding areas authorities and aid agencies continue to evacuate those who have stayed in their flooded homes for fear of looting and further rains.

Jabodetabek refers to the metropolitan area surrounding Jakarta, with a population estimated at 23.7 million.

Local communities, local nongovernmental organizations, universities, political parties, private companies, media, and religious groups are providing assistance to affected people with food, tents, water tanks, blankets, health assistance and search and rescue efforts.

Volunteers and staff from local Red Cross chapters are providing meals to 35,000 people per day, as well as distributing relief goods.

Oxfam and its partners are rushing supplies to the area to provide for the immediate emergency needs through the distribution of clean water, sanitation facilities, and relief items such as hygiene kits and sarongs.

Action Against Hunger Indonesia has provided water tanks in six locations, tents, soap, blankets, and mats.

The United Nations Population Fund has allocated US$96,000 for its response to the floods in Jakarta and surrounding areas to be delivered by the Department of Health’s Crisis Management Center.

Young Jakarta flood survivor clings to a package of high-energy biscuits provided by the World Food Programme. (Photo courtesy WFP )

UNICEF emergency supplies valued at more than US$150,000 arrived today to assist flood victims. The equipment is targeted at establishing safe water supplies throughout flood-affected parts in North Jakarta.

Thirty 4,000 liter collapsible water bladders will be placed at strategic locations, designed to supply 240,000 people with their daily water requirements.

UNICEF is urging communities not to distribute infant formula to flood victims, as affected families do not have easy access to clean water, or means to purify it.

The government of Malaysia has provided five metric tons of blankets, five tons of food, two tons of medicines and three tons of hygiene and cleaning supplies.

The government of Australia will boost its emergency relief to A$250,000 worth of emergency food parcels and hygiene kits and their delivery to flood survivors throught UN World Food Programme over the next 24 hours.

The government of Canada has approved C$50,000 for food and hygiene kits supplies to be delivered through two local NGOs.

The European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department has committed €600,000 to international NGOs for delivery of water and sanitation, health, provision of hygiene and other nonfood assistance.

The U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, will provide a total of US$100,000 to the Indonesian Red Cross, CARE, Mercy Corps, and World Vision to provide hygiene kits, water containers, and sleeping mats to Jakarta’s flood survivors.

“CARE works in the Jakarta area, so our staff were able to respond immediately to this latest disaster,” said Gail Steckley, CARE’s country director in Indonesia. “Many of our staff are also among the families affected.”

sumber: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2007/2007-02-12-01.asp