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Jakarta not ready for worst
scenario: Agency

Gloomy Sunday: A woman heads home along an inundated street in Bukit Duri in Jakarta on Sunday. Floodwater from Bogor and two afternoons’ of heavy rain in Jakarta led to a sudden increase in the level of the Ciliwung River and caused severe flooding in Bukit Duri and nearby areas. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)
Gloomy Sunday: A woman heads home along an inundated street in Bukit Duri in Jakarta on Sunday. Floodwater from Bogor and two afternoons’ of heavy rain in Jakarta led to a sudden increase in the level of the Ciliwung River and caused severe flooding in Bukit Duri and nearby areas. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Flooding on the city’s main thoroughfares like Jl. Sudirman, Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Gatot Subroto over the weekend show that Jakarta will remain vulnerable to flooding for years to come, says the nation’s
disaster mitigation agency.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo said that the three areas were not among the city’s 78 flood-prone areas. This means the problem of flooding in the city is becoming more complex, he added.

Jakarta Public Works Agency chief Ery Basworo claimed that the city had a functioning drainage system and several water pumps along Jl. Thamrin, but apparently the water from the torrential rain on Saturday was too much for the pumps to handle.

He said that average rainfall in Jakarta was 5 to 10 millimeters per hour, while the rainfall on Saturday reached 150 millimeters per hour.

“This doesn’t happen a lot, so the pumps could not handle it.”

Ery said that although the drainage system had been designed to cope with higher-than-average rainfall, they were not designed for the worst possibilities. “But we don’t plan to add more pumps due to the limited time we have and the unpredictable intensity of the rain.”

Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has said that it is not easy to solve the problem of flooding in Jakarta. But Saturday’s flooding has triggered questions over whether the Jakarta administration was ready to face the rainy season and all its problems.

The governor has yet to outline the steps he will take to prevent flooding such as that over the weekend from happening again. On Sunday, he visited Thousand Islands regency and did not comment on the flooding.

On Saturday, a torrential downpour led to floods and horrendous gridlock on several of Jakarta’s major thoroughfares.

The BNPB said that Saturday’s rain had increased the water level of the Ciliwung River at the Katulampa sluice gate in Bogor, West Java, to 120 centimeters, higher than the normal level of 50 centimeters.

On early Sunday morning, the water reached the Manggarai sluice gate in South Jakarta and overflowed to neighborhoods along the Ciliwung River. The inundated subdistricts were Makasar, Bidara Cina, Kampung Melayu, Cawang and Kramat, according the agency.

BNPB also warns of further flooding as water at the Manggarai sluice gate was expected to overflow at around 3 a.m. as a result of the high water level at Katulampa. Some areas likely to be inundated are Rawajati, Kalibata, Pengadegan, Kebon Baru, Bukit Duri and Kampung Melayu.

Sutopo said that in addition to nature, humans were also a contributing factor to flooding in the city.

“The complexity of these problems has made it impossible to see Jakarta totally free of floods in the years to come,” he said. “Many mitigation efforts will not be sufficient to address the problem of flooding.”

He doubted that the government and the Jakarta administration would be able to negate the problems affecting the 78 flood-prone areas by 2014. He said that the East Flood Canal could only control flooding in 15 areas, while the West Flood Canal could only help six areas. The dredging of the Pesanggrahan River, the Angke River and the Sunter River, which is scheduled to finish in 2014, would only solve the problem in 10 areas.

The Jakarta Emergency Dredging Initiative, in which 13 rivers will be dredged, will only address flooding in 20 areas.

“Twenty-seven other areas will still be threatened by flooding. It will get worse if there are new spots,”
Sutopo said. (fzm)

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