Task force assigned to oversee flood canal project
Urip Hudiono, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government plans to set up a national flood control task force, which will aim to complete by 2009 the construction of the East Flood Canal.

It will allocate Rp 2.1 trillion (US$233 million) for the project this year alone, Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said, estimating Rp 6.5 trillion would be disbursed over a three-year period.

The Jakarta administration, meanwhile, will allocate Rp 1.8-trillion this year to improve the city’s drainage system and water catchment areas, and a further Rp 1.2 trillion in the next two years.

“The East Flood Canal cannot be completed this year, but our target (this year) is for the Jakarta administration to finish acquiring land for the project as we add another nine kilometers (to the canal),” Djoko said Monday after a meeting on the matter with Vice President Jusuf Kalla, State Minister for National Development Planning Paskah Suzetta and State Minister for the Environment Rahmat Witoelar.

“We will also heighten and reinforce the West Flood Canal, as a number of areas like Tomang are still proven to be susceptible to spillover flooding.”

So far, only a 7.7-kilometer stretch of the 23.5-kilometer East Flood Canal — which will cut through the Cipinang, Sunter and Cakung rivers, channeling their water directly into the sea — has been completed.

The West Flood Canal, which cuts through the Cideng, Krukut and Grogol rivers, was constructed in 1922 in response to the great flood in Batavia or old Jakarta in 1918.

Following torrential rain last month, 45-75 percent of the city was affected by flooding. At least 140 people died from drowning, electrocution or disease and thousands were forced from their homes. Economic losses are estimated at Rp 8 trillion.

The situation, which was considered worse than the last major inundation in 2002, resulted in a blame game over the poor land-use frameworks in Greater Jakarta, calling for renewed attention to the drainage system, land usage and the canal projects in the capital and its surrounding municipalities.

A number of experts, however, have warned that the current plans for the East Flood Canal — which were drawn up 80 years ago when the city’s area was 2,500 hectares — may need to be revised considering the city has since grown to 65,000 hectares.

Djoko said the national task force, which is to be formed upon President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s direct orders, will ensure all related local administrations and ministries work together and share responsibilities, with all technical construction matters under the Public Works Ministry’s coordination.

Kalla had previously instructed the Jakarta, Banten and West Java governors to sort out any spatial planning issues that may have contributed to the flooding.

“There will now be a clear program, timetable and blueprint to manage the floods,” Djoko said.

“The Jakarta administration must also encourage developers to cooperate, for their own benefit. Look at what happened to Kelapa Gading. If it continues flood, then it is at its own expense because property values will slide.”

Besides the flood recovery projects, the city administration is also planning to relocate 71,000 families from riverbanks to low-cost apartments built by the Public Housing Ministry.

Djoko said the matter would be included in the team’s program, but it was unlikely the apartments would be ready for occupancy this year.

“The problem is always informing the public of how important it (the relocation) is (to support flood management). It’s always difficult and will take time,” he said.