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Blame game in Jakarta's floods

Tempo - January 10, 2020

Jakarta – The central government and the regional administration are busy accusing each other to the cause of the floods that inundated Jakarta. Weak public service management occurred at all levels.

Floods that inundated Jakarta and environs in the first days of 2020 should serve a dire lesson for all concerned: this chronic problem is one that cannot be solved by throwing accusations in public at each other. The central and Jakarta regional governments should work in collaboration, not keep busy finding fault with each other. The snide commentary between President Joko Widodo, Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basoeki Hadimoeljono, and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan will not stop the floods from recurring in the future.

The failure of the flood control program in the capital city last week indicated just how abysmal government management is at all levels, both at the central and the regional levels. The fact that the flood is no sudden disaster occurring for the very first time just made matters worse. Everybody knows Jakarta and its environs, Tangerang, Depok, and Bekasi, are prone to major flooding. Aside from its land contour forming a natural basin, there are scores of rivers flowing from their upstream in the Bogor area to Jakarta on their way to the Java Sea. Only donkeys never learn from their previous mistakes.

The Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Body (BMKG) had in fact issued a disaster warning at the end of last year. On December 27, 2019, the BMKG released news that several provinces would suffer heavy rainfall coupled with strong winds as the year ended, including the Jakarta capital city, Banten, and West Java. But the warning was not acted upon.

Many studies have been made on flood management, but the execution has never been holistic. Our public officials prefer debating on things such as terminology concerning "naturalization versus normalization" and shrug their shoulders when inquired why the Ciliwung River normalization project was only half-done and is currently in shambles. The project to widen the river has only been carried out along 16 kilometers from the original plan for 30 kilometers. Once motifs take a political bent, solutions become hard to come by.

Frankly speaking, the Ciliwung project was not a matter of the mere land release. Nor was it a matter of physical obstruction when correcting the river flow to the Jakarta Bay estuary. Legal umbrellas can be created, regulations are easily changed – if the impediment lay in the regulations. The real crux of the matter lay in jammed up coordination between the central government and the regional government. For what it's worth, the governor is the long hand of the central government. If the regional head ignores a national program, there should have been ways of forcing him to move forward.

This is not a pure Jakarta case. Management of Puncak and the development of several dams in West Java faced the same attitude. Two dams slated for completion end of this year, the Ciawi and Sukamahi Dams, could not solve the problems if the forests of the region continue to be depleted. Shifts in zonation regulations of the Puncak area, originally allocated as a water basin, into a tourism and residential zone, could only have happened when the state apparatus did not work effectively. Years and years of neglect have never been corrected by the central government.

With the routine flood disasters occurring every year, Jakarta should have become the world's best laboratory to anticipate flooding. Many innovative public policies and infrastructure could have been tried and tested and studied for effectiveness. Public officials need to make breakthroughs that go beyond the cubicles separating central and regional administrations. Unfortunately, this has never happened because we are too busy fault-finding every time a flood occurs.

Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine: https://magz.tempo.co/read/36271/blame-game-in-jakartas-floods

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1293341/blame-game-in-jakartas-floods