Wed, 17 Dec 2003

City yet to fully prepare for the floods

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Dredging Jakarta's rivers ahead of the rainy season and expected devastating floods is yet to begin in earnest, despite the deadline for the US$4.3 million project set for Saturday.

"Since I started the water pump project here (in September), I have never seen any dredging," said Siahaan, a worker of a city project installing two water pumps to shift water from the Grogol river to the West Flood Canal nearby.

His statement contradicts earlier comments made by Public Works Agency head IGKG Suena who said work on dredging the city's eight rivers began in November.

The administration has allocated Rp 37 billion (US$4.35 million) to dredge the rivers to minimize floods in the capital.

The Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) has warned that rainfall in the capital in January will be almost as high as those that caused the disastrous floods of 2002.

The BMG forecast that rain will fall for between 26 and 28 days during January with rainfall of between 50 millimeters and 100 mm per day.

It takes only 75 mm of rain a day over three consecutive days to cause floods in Jakarta.

Last year, Grogol was hit by floodwaters up to 1.5-meters deep, forcing thousands of residents to take refugee for weeks.

In the Sunter River, piles of garbage swamped and blocked the sluice gate on Jl. Pegangsaan, Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta.

A worker at the gate, Abdullah, said the river was yet to be dredged.

"The last dredging was after last year's floods. Nobody told us about a plan to dredge the river," he said.

An excavator was seen in the area to remove garbage.

Abdullah said the river water level was still four-meters below alert levels.

Residents living near the Cakung sluice gate said the Cakung River had been dredged twice before Ramadhan, which fell on Oct. 27, and last Saturday.

Dozens of workers were seen elevating the walls of the riverbanks, establishing a four meter high wall along some 450 meters of the river.