New stream built to reduce lava impact
A new stream is being built at a section of Kali Putih River in Gempol, Magelang, Central Java in a bid to reduce the impact of lava floods from Mt. Merapi as the rainy season intensifies.
Head of Magelang regency disaster mitigation agency Eko Priyono said the new stream was urgent for streamlining the meandering section of the river, which originates from Merapi, to redirect the lava so that it does not affect residential areas and the main road connecting Magelang and Yogyakarta.
“This is urgent because when the lava comes, the volcanic material cannot flow according to the existing stream and instead goes straight down, hitting nearby residential complexes as well as cutting off the Magelang-Yogyakarta turnpike,” he said on Tuesday.
Eko said the total funding needed to complete the work was estimated at Rp 64 billion, which included bridge construction work, dredging work to create the new 2.3 kilometer-long stream and land acquisition.
“The work has intensified as we expect to finish it by the end of this year at the latest,” Eko said.
He expressed hope that the new stream, expected to be 6 meters deep and 50 meters wide, would be able to accommodate the volcanic discharge from Merapi during lava floods, thus leaving the nearby residential complexes safe and the Magelang-Yogyakarta turnpike untouched.
Heri, a resident of Gempol currently living in a temporary house due to his previous house being destroyed by lava, said that a stream leading straight down could be found on the section in question. It was deflected during the colonial era to save funds for bridge construction, requiring the construction of a single bridge instead of two.
The section has been frequently disturbed during lava floods that followed heavy downpours over the peak of Mt. Merapi, last year’s eruptions of which are estimated to have spewed over 150 million cubic meters of volcanic materials.
Experts have predicted that it will take four rainy seasons for the rivers on Merapi to completely bring down these materials, which threaten some nearly 100,000 people living along the banks of those rivers as rains intensify.
Eko said that families are living on the banks of Krasak, Kali Putih, Kali Lamat, Kali Blongkeng and Kali Pabelan rivers, all of which originate on Merapi.
“They are spread across 58 subdistricts in Magelang regency and will have to be evacuated when lava floods come,” he said on Tuesday.
To help ease evacuation procedures, a number of gathering points have been prepared by the authorities with the help of various organizations working on disaster risk reduction efforts.
“This is necessary to prevent people from panicking when the floods are coming. It is also easier to transport them from gathering spots to the evacuation center in Tanjung if the flood lasts for over two consecutive days,”Eko said.
Separately, in anticipation of the lava floods, local residents and humanitarian volunteers have been established in disaster coordination posts in their respective regions. Using radio communication devices, they are mutually informing each other of conditions at the peak of the volcano.
“Should movements of lava be detected, volunteers based on the upper slope will warn us to be ready for self-evacuation,” Suparni of Gulon subdistrict, Salam, said.
Rains intensified on Tuesday over the western slope of Merapi in Magelang region, but they were not heavy enough to cause lava floods.
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