Lenny Tristia Tambun, Jakarta – Indonesians have flooded the social media accounts of Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, or FIA, with pleas to cancel their electric car race in the country's capital in June.
Jakartans, many of whom are still reeling from the effects of massive floods on New Year's Day that have so far killed 43 people and forced more than 400,000 people to evacuate, were angered that the city administration has allocated more than $100 million for the race, higher than its flood mitigation budget.
A petition to cancel the Formula E race at change.org has garnered more than 1,000 signatures since it was published on Friday.
"This event is nothing more than a political stage show that ignores the city's most crucial problems and should be canceled," Irawan Prasetyo, the petition's initiator, wrote in his plea.
Jakarta experienced its heaviest rainfall in more than 154 years on New Year's Day and the subsequent floods have put more than 50 percent of the city under water in the past three days.
The official death toll has now reached 43 and more than 400,000 people have been forced to leave their homes and take refuge in shelters or the homes of close relatives.
"This was not a natural disaster, but a disaster caused by the incompetence of the governor of Jakarta who cut the city's budget for flood management and abandoned the development of most of the city's anti-flood infrastructure," Irawan said.
Irawan said Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan might have cut the flood mitigation budget to make room for the race, which he described as a "high-profile event that is certainly not needed or wanted by the people of Jakarta."
Anies has flatly rejected the accusation. "That's just not true. It's a fabrication. I don't think I need to [respond]. I don't want to make any comment," Anies said when visiting a flood shelter in Rawa Buaya, West Jakarta, on Friday.
Nevertheless, many on social media have appealed to the FIA to stop the race.
Dear @FIAFormulaE board, Jakarta is not ready to host #FormulaE. Jakarta had flood problem every year. And today, Jakarta is collapse due to overwhelming flood almost in every areas. Jakarta's governor reduce the flood handling project and allocate it on Formula E. @kurawa – #Kerjabersama (@budhartono) January 2, 2020
Dear @FIAFormulaE, Jakarta is grieving & mourning, thousands are homeless, the deceased and more people are dying now due to the big flood. This was ALSO caused by insufficient flood fund allocation that has been cut off and placed for the Formula E racing instead. Kindly noted. – Tommy Suherman (@thomas7suherman) January 3, 2020
Flood mitigation budget slashed
Jakarta's regional budget data showed the city administration has been reducing its flood mitigation budget since Anies took office in 2017.
The city's flood handling and control budget was Rp 2 trillion ($144 million) in 2018 before it was cut by 12.5 percent to Rp 1.75 trillion last year. Since then Anies has cut the budget again to Rp 1.48 trillion for 2020.
The governor, however, has allocated a budget of Rp 1.6 trillion to host the Formula E race to help promote the use of electric vehicles in Jakarta, one of the most polluted cities in the world.
Jhonny Simanjuntak, a city council member from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) – an opposition party to Anies in the 2017 gubernatorial election – said the governor has made little progress in flood mitigation as a result of neglecting projects to increase the water capacity of 13 of Jakarta's major rivers.
"The development of an artificial channel connecting the Ciliwung River and the BKT [The Eastern Flood Canal], reservoirs and sea walls to prevent beach abrasion has not progressed," he said.
Mohammad Arifin, another council member from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) – a supporter of Anies in the 2017 election – agreed with Jhonny's assessment. "The Jakarta government needs to normalize [the capacity] of the city's water reservoirs, preventing them from silting and narrowing," he said.