Tue, 04 Feb 2003

Jakartans get ready for another round of flooding

Novan Iman Santosa, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Chinese believe that rain during the Lunar New Year festivities brings good luck for the coming year, but most Jakartans, especially those living along riverbanks, no doubt have an entirely different opinion of wet weather.

Jakarta residents are still haunted by last year's flooding, which overwhelmed large parts of the city, including areas previously untouched by floods.

Several government and city agencies have warned residents that Jakarta is at risk of flooding again this year, although probably not to the same extent as last year.

The city administration was roundly criticized last year for failing to provide residents with adequate warning of the flood threat.

So instead of relying on city officials, many residents are now taking the initiative and going straight to the source to get information.

Kusharyanto, a floodgate keeper in Manggarai, South Jakarta, said many residents contacted the Manggarai floodgate to find out if there was a threat of flooding.

"Actually, we are supposed to file an hourly report with the City Flood Command Post at the City Public Works Agency," Kusharyanto told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

"The agency should then notify City Hall about any possible flood threats. City Hall will then notify all officials at the subdistrict and district levels.

"But it seems that residents are not satisfied with the information given by those officials," he said.

Kusharyanto said officials tended to generalize flood threats, while in fact the actual threat depended on individual locations.

"A water height of 150 centimeters at the Depok monitoring post may flood a certain area and not another.

"Residents have learned from past experience whether a certain water level at the Depok monitoring post will cause flooding in their area," he said.

Another reliable source of information on any possible flooding are the numerous radio stations in the city.

The radio stations provided valuable information last year and are again prepared to cover the story if flooding hits the city.

"We gained a lot of experience from our coverage last year, so we will be ready to use that experience if there is flooding this year," Hendrik of Jakarta News FM told the Post.

"But we have not made any preparations yet. We can simply spread our reporters around the city when needed," he said.

Iwan of RRI Pro 2 FM said the station would cover any flooding as it would any other natural disaster.

During last year's flooding, the radio stations not only broadcast information about the inundation but also became centers of aid distribution for those affected by the flooding.

Hendrik said Jakarta News FM could again call upon the groups of listeners, volunteers and university students who helped distribute aid last year.