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Jakarta Post

Come hell or high water

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, February 27, 2020   /   08:02 am
Come hell or high water Have fun where you can: Children swim in a flooded area in Bukit Duri, Central Jakarta, on Tuesday. The area was flooded because of the poor condition of the local drainage system. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

Another rainstorm hit Jakarta earlier this week. And while it was less intense than the storm that caused the flooding at the beginning of the new year, it was by no means less destructive.

The Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) reported that nearly 300 community units (RWs) across the city were affected, slightly lower than the 390 recorded on Jan. 1. The floods were more widespread despite the fact that the rainfall peaked at 278 millimeters per day, much lower than the heavy rainfall of Dec. 31, which peaked at 377 mm, the highest in the city's history.

In Cakung, East Jakarta, tensions broke out as residents of the Jakarta Garden City (JGC) residential complex rallied at the nearby AEON Mall JGC, blaming the mall for the floods that they encountered. They demanded a solution from the mall developer and damaged the property.

But of course, they went home with nothing. The developer refused to take the blame and offered mediation with the city administration. The residents refused the offer because they had lost hope in the administration.

Such pessimism is not irrational. Almost two months since the New Year floods that claimed at least 16 lives across the capital and dozens more in satellite cities, no major steps have been taken.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, other regional leaders and even President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo seem to be comfortable with the argument that the flood mitigation infrastructure is still under construction, and hence, residents should be patient.

Such persistence in not making a move to protect citizens from these frequent natural disasters is appalling, especially since these government leaders were elected to fulfill the constitutional mandate of ensuring the well-being of all, whether they voted for or against them.

Jokowi may have his reasons since he is already in his second and final term. But Anies, who was recently named in a survey the strongest potential candidate for the 2024 presidential election, has had his reputation as a competent regional leader tainted by his response to these two floods.

Disappointed voters may punish leaders who fail them. With his current term ending in two years, hopes remain high for Anies to regain public confidence by showing full commitment to flood prevention and mitigation, without stirring up unnecessary debates over technical terms.

He can council experts to find a lasting fix for the flooding and work out ways to help residents. One avenue that his predecessors never explored is to control the development of structures along the waterways — from those lining the river banks to those in upscale housing areas. He should restrict them because the settlements, whether slums or fancy dwellings, will block waterways and exacerbate the floods.

No leader of Jakarta will be able to solve the acute, decades-long problem of flooding alone, but coordinated efforts between the central government and the Jakarta administration, and between Jakarta and its neighbors, have the potential to resolve the perennial problem.