Fri, 02 May 2003

Bukit Duri residents unfazed by floods

Arya Abhiseka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Four-year-old Awang appeared unaware of the direct impact of the Ciliwung River bursting its banks and the water that inundated his home since Wednesday morning, forcing his family to shelter on the rooftop of their shack.

He was joyfully swimming in the water, which swamped the entire first floor of his family's two-story shack, where the family's belongings used to be. Their meager belongings were now placed along the street on Bukit Duri Raya, East Jakarta, to avoid further damage.

Once in a while, Ibu Ratna would glance over at her son to ensure that he was safe, while playing with his friends in the muddy waters of the Ciliwung River.

"We are used to it. It almost like an annual celebration for Awang," said Ibu Ratna on Thursday from the shelter his family had built on top of their original home.

Pak Mumu, 46, head of neighborhood unit 05/012 in the Bukit Duri area told The Jakarta Post that the people who lived by the banks of the Ciliwung River had become used to the annual floods.

"More and more people are resigned in the face of the annual floods. Most of them already know what to expect and what to do," he said.

The Bukit Duri area was quiet, without the hysteria or grumbling from flood victims that were evident in the past.

Those accustomed to the annual floods insisted on staying home, guarding their belongings. Some of them built shelters on the rooftop of their homes.

Neighborhoods along the riverbank in Jakarta are increasingly prone to floods, since flooding has worsened in recent years.

Ciliwung River is one of the city's 13 largest rivers. When heavy rainfall occurs upstream in the hilly area of Puncak and Bogor it can cause flooding in Jakarta.

The flood on Wednesday morning, however, took residents by surprise. They said that it had rained early on Wednesday.

"But the raid had stopped when the river burst its banks and the water level started to rise at 4 a.m.," they said.

The floodwaters affected 25 neighborhood units in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta as some 6,637 residents were forced to take shelter at the subdistrict office, mosques, churches and schools.

Several reports said that the Ciliwung River water level had increased by three meters.

The water also inundated a high school building of SMA 8 in Bukit Duri for a while. The school was closed on Thursday for cleaning but classes were expected to resume on Friday.

Meanwhile, Pak Mumu also explained that most people in his neighborhood accepted the fact that living by the riverbank meant being flooded out during the rainy season.

He added that his neighborhood unit comprised more than 100 households, while ideally a neighborhood unit consists of no more than 40 households.

Illegal temporary and permanent homes were built along the riverbank of the Ciliwung River during the previous decades as low-income earners do not have access to cheap and affordable housing in Jakarta.

The city government and several business institutions have long been trying to evict illegal squatters from along the riverbank.

"We are not resisting, if they want us to leave then we will leave. But we must be properly compensated," said Pak Mumu calmly, while adding that some people in his neighborhood were born in the Bukit Duri neighborhood, including himself.

However, he asserted that the people did not object to leaving the riverbank neighborhood in Bukit Duri, but were concerned about losing their source of income in the city.