Life is the pits in the city of floods
City News – March 11, 2007

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Rocker Nugie had no idea of what a percolation pit was until he recently attended a discussion on the much-promoted issue.

“In a recent ritual to bury my baby’s umbilical cord, I found a water source after digging a small hole. Is it also categorized as the percolation system?” he asked.

Nugie said he bought an old house in Bintaro Jaya, Tangerang, in which a pipe to channel the rainwater that fell on his roof to a pit that would allow it to reach an aquifer was not installed.

Referred to as the country’s ambassador for the environment because of the recurrent environmental themes of his songs, Nugie promised to set up a percolation system in his house and to promote the concept to his neighbors.

Indonesia’s 2006 Miss Environment, Ananda, who was also participating in the discussion, said that percolation systems were one of the vital instruments required to safeguard the capital from future floods.

“Jakarta is now facing a critical condition due to the water problems. Percolation systems are a panacea to the problem,” said Ananda, who was also a doctor.

Floods have become an annual occurrence in the city during the rainy season.

Jakarta, in which the central government is situated, suffered from the worst flooding in its history last month. Almost 70 percent of the capital was affected and 48 people were killed.

The central government blamed the floods on the city’s poor spatial plan and the lack of percolation pits.

It said that a lack of open space had prevented the rainwater from penetrating the city’s land, leading to most of the downpour running into the rivers.

The central government then floated a number of programs aimed at preventing a reoccurrence of such incidents.

To name a few, the Environment Ministry launched a massive campaign to promote percolation pits in an effort to harvest more rainwater.

This week, the ministry planned to raid commercial premises and houses in Jakarta to check whether percolation systems had been installed, as stipulated by a city ordinance.

The first targets include Cilandak Town Square and Pondok Indah housing estate in South Jakarta.

The Public Works Ministry pledged to finish the construction of the long-delayed East Flood Canal next year, revised from the previous completion target of 2010, and planned to revitalize the Dutch-made West Flood Canal.

Meanwhile, the Forestry Ministry was focused on re-greening Jakarta’s upstream neighbors, Puncak and Bogor.

The Jakarta administration proposed the establishment of an underground reservoir to resolve the water problems.

The reservoir, 17 kilometers in length and 18 meters in diameter, would be placed 100 meters below the West Flood Canal. The reservoir was expected to be capable of holding 30 million cubic meters of water.

Rock group Slank said real actions were needed to save the country from human-induced natural disasters.

“All of us must act from now on to protect the environment. There is no bargaining in the matter,” Bimbim, the band’s drummer, told reporters during the release of their 15th album, Slow but Sure, which contains environment-related songs.

Lyrics in one of the group’s new songs, Lapindo, say: “Only stupid people dump waste into rivers, only fools channel waste water to rivers, even little children know it’s wrong”. The song referred to the prolonged mudflow in Sidoarjo, West Java.