Thu, 20 Nov 2003

Reclamation may cause more floods

Leony Aurora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

An expert witness from the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG), Paulus Winarso, told a hearing at the State Administrative Court on Wednesday that the planned reclamation of parts of the North Jakarta coastline would increase flooding in the metropolis.

Paulus was presented as an expert witness for the Office of the State Minister for the Environment in the case between the minister and the Jakarta administration, which is being heard by the State Administrative Court in Pulo Gebang, East Jakarta.

Temperatures were tending to increase, and dry and wet extremes were becoming more pronounced globally, meaning that the dry season was becoming more prolonged and the rainy season shorter, but with heavier rainfall while it lasted, he said.

"The extent of the flooding is showing a tendency to increase year by year," Paulus said. In the 1996 floods, the water did not reach the presidential palace but in 2002 even this supposedly invulnerable area was flooded.

"Where will all the water go if the reclamation project goes ahead, other than flooding other areas," he said.

About 330 million cubic meters of sand will be used to reclaim the coastline and the equivalent amount of water would displaced to other places.

It would also take longer for the water coming from Bogor, Puncak and its surroundings in West Java to reach the sea, said the expert.

The floods caused by the proposed project would hit "not only Jakarta, but also Banten and parts of West Java," Paulus confirmed.

The Jakarta administration wants to reclaim 2,700 hectares of the city's northern shore for the construction of luxury homes, hotels and industrial zones. The State Minister for the Environment, Nabiel Makarim, issued Decree No. 14/2003 refusing permission for the plan in February.

The decree was based on a recommendation of the Central Environmental Impact Analysis Commission, which assessed the environmental impact documents submitted by Water Front City Management (PB Pantura).

The assessment found that the planned reclamation project would cause an increase in sea level of 12 centimeters, worsen pollution in the Thousand Islands (Kepulauan Seribu) regency, damage the marine ecosystem and cause thousands of fishermen to lose their livelihoods.

The city responded by setting up a new environmental impact commission to assess the original impact documents and report to the Jakarta Environmental Impact Agency (Bapedalda). Only Bapedalda's approval is needed as the project is located within three miles of the existing coastline, the city claims.

The administration then filed a law suit via six companies against the minister's office to force it to annul the decree.

The lawyers from the Amir Syariffudin and Associates law firm, who represent the city, questioned Paulus about the role of the areas surrounding Jakarta in relation to the floods that affect the city.

"Rainfall in Jakarta contributes 60 percent of the excess water while water from Bogor and Puncak contributes the other 40 percent," answered Paulus.

The hearing was adjourned to Dec. 10 to hear the opinions of other experts for the office of the state minister.