Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jakarta faces up to a high flood-risk future

Bruno Philip in the Guardian (UK): On 17 January water flooded into several Jakarta neighbourhoods, claiming more than a dozen lives and causing the evacuation of 18,000 residents. Even the city centre was affected. The papers featured pictures of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono paddling in the garden of his official residence, his trousers rolled up to the knee.

"I have sent a letter to the Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) to move the clouds to the north [the sea]," city governor Joko Widodo told reporters at city hall last month. He did not go into details about how this might be done, explaining that it was possible to use weather engineering technology to control clouds. Indonesian meteorologist Armi Susandi was dubious about this strategy's chances of success. "Most likely the rain will fall in Jakarta instead of the sea," he told the daily Jakarta Post.

Floods are a recurrent problem for the Indonesian capital. In 2007, harsh conditions caused 50 fatalities and displaced 300,000 people. According to specialists, channels need to be built to contain the city's 13 rivers, with tunnels to divert floodwater and pumping stations on the northern, seaward side.

Widodo admitted that combating flooding is an uphill task. "It's a very complicated problem. The Dutch built 300 dams and lakes, but there are only 50 left. The wetlands, woods and other green spaces north of the city have been taken over by housing complexes and malls. You can't just demolish everything," he said. Forecasters fear there will be more heavy rainfall before the end of the monsoon in March, as the battle against the rising tide remains a problem....

An 1897 map of Batavia, now Jakarta

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