Saturday, December 22, 2007

Indonesia: Let's manage garbage to combat flooding

The Jakarta Post (Indonesia) in an editorial: A major flood threatens Jakarta. At least that is what was implied by the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG), which predicted that a high tide of up to 2.2 meters will affect northern Jakarta within the next few weeks, with the worst affected areas expected to be Penjaringan and Pluit. High levels of precipitation could also cause floods of up to half a meter deep in Cawang, Cakung, Jatinegara, Pancoran and Rawa Jati (Kompas, Dec. 5).

This is concerning, at least for us Jakartans and other residents of coastal areas. One problem that has not yet been solved is how to manage our garbage to avoid flooding. Now we have to add high tides to the list of threats. The easiest answer to the question as to what causes the floods nowadays is the dramatic impact of global warming affecting all parts of the world.…

However, we may have forgotten another reason that needs to be addressed: the intensive coastal reclamation work in North Jakarta was one of the cause of the floods from Ancol to Kapuk Naga at the end of November.

We may wonder about the floods in the U.S. or UK due to Hurricane Katrina or the heavy rains that caused the big rivers of Europe to overflow. Countries that are well-developed in terms of surface water management, through well-prepared drainage systems, pumps and control dams, in addition to proper waste management, where it is rare to find garbage plugging up the system, still have to deal with the problem. Surely the rising waters will wreak havoc in developing countries, that are still only introducing such technology, as in Indonesia.

Floods do not just transport water. They contain bacteria, germs and domestic waste. It's no secret that the floodwaters also contain dangerous substances, such as hazardous chemical waste.

...The stakeholders, all of us, need to take a stand to reduce the impact of improper waste management, and the international forum on climate change in Bali is the perfect opportunity for Indonesia to take action and think about how improper waste management, domestic and industrial, has contributed to polluting our environment.

Let us not forget that waste management, especially urban waste that consists mainly of organic carbon substances, is a significant contributor to greenhouse emissions, especially since waste management systems in Indonesian landfills (TPAs) create methane gases that are improperly managed.

…At least there will be a symbiosis of mutualism; both horizontally and vertically. More importantly, municipalities and industry players need to start managing their waste properly. When they realize that the hazardous waste generated by companies in their areas requires professional handling, according to the environmental rules and regulations, they will come to realize that they need to delegate this task to professional companies that specialize in industrial waste management.

As waste management is their core business, they will have the facilities and capabilities needed to ensure that the waste will be properly managed and will not damage the environment. To quote the old saying, "We should leave it to the experts." It's still not too late for this.

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