Politics could exacerbate natural disasters
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A green group has blamed local politics for contributing to the switft enviromnental degradation that eventually led to more frequent natural disasters.
The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said that it has recorded an increase in the number of disasters and casualties caused by environmental degradation.
“The cause of this increasing frequency of natural disasters and the numbers of their victims are investment policies which are not environmentally-friendly,” Walhi disaster management division head Mukri Friatna said in a recent interview with The Jakarta Post.
Mukri said that investment policies were designed to benefit local leaders who need cash to contest local elections. “The high cost of politics at the local level has encouraged local leaders to abuse their authority, including issuing pro-business policies,” he said.
The group has recorded dozens of flash floods and landslides across Indonesia this year, 22 of which killed at least 65 people.
Walhi recorded 452 flash floods and landslides in 2011, killing 371 people. In 2010, 428 flash floods and landslides occurred, killing 635 people. Walhi data also shows that 324 people were killed in 447 flash floods and landslides in 2009.
Mukri said that natural disasters, mostly caused by environment degradation as a result of unchecked business expansions, had also caused local administrations to spend more on relief and recovery efforts.
“For example, material losses caused by a flash flood in Padang [West Sumatra] in July reached Rp 46 billion [US$4.87 million]. That excludes economic losses and the costs of reconstruction and rehabilitation, which could reach another Rp 50 billion. Let’s say the amount of the regional budget stands at Rp 150 billion, Rp 100 billion would be used to cover all the costs,” Mukri said.
Mukri said that as natural disasters increase, they will affect the distribution of local budgets, especially on education and health.
The flash flood that hit six districts in Padang late last month, damaged innumerable buildings and displaced hundreds of residents. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has estimated that material losses caused by the flash flood could reach Rp 40.66 billion.
Mukri said that despite the severity of these disasters, the government remains in dark over the real causes.
“The BNPB always blames the disasters on high intensity of rain. They do want to further explain the root of all the problems—which is environmental degradation,”
Siti Zuhro, a political analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said that the new political landscape in the reform era had affected on how the country’s natural resources were exploited.
“After reform, Indonesian politics are more fragmented. We have gone through multiple multi-party systems and imposed regional autonomy since 2001. Since 2005, we have implemented regional direct elections. Those new episodes have a direct correlation to our natural resources’ exploitation,” she said.
Siti pointed out that regional autonomy had given power to local leaders to manage their regions and encouraged local leaders to boost locally-generated revenue (PAD), which led to numerous bylaws, most of which were problematic.
“Regional autonomy has given local leaders the confidence to issue regulations, which are not entirely environmentally friendly,” she said.