JAKARTA: (The Jakarta Post/ANN): Experts on urban planning and flood mitigation have urged the public to engage in a healthier, more comprehensive discussion about flood mitigation instead of riding on a political spat between Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono regarding a 17-kilometre stretch of the Ciliwung River, a minor issue in Greater Jakarta's overall flood problem.
Climate scientists have warned that the extreme weather caused by climate change that happened in Indonesia at the turn of the year may become the "new normal" of the future.
The warning has led to a conversation about flood-mitigation strategies far beyond the spat among officials and politicians about river "normalisation” or “naturalisation" programmes.
Minister Basuki has pushed for the so-called river normalisation programme, in which the ministry will widen the Ciliwung River, instal concrete piling along the river and build a road for motor vehicles, all of which will require evictions.
Meanwhile, Anies, who pledged not to carry out forced evictions in his election campaign, halted the procurement of land needed for the project and offered naturalisation instead, which replaces concrete piling with river stones and transforms riverbanks into green public spaces.
The ongoing debate will be a waste of time if officials do not address the underlying problems of recurring floods, namely climate change, land conversion to resorts and villas in the upstream area and rapid development in the downstream, which leads to massive groundwater extraction from deep aquifers, according to Bosman Batubara, a PhD student at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands, who is doing a doctoral thesis on flood management.
“The problem is getting more complex because of inadequate care of waterways coupled with garbage dumping and sedimentation, ” Bosman said.
“But none of the technical solutions talk about power, which is the core problem. Flooding in the cities is the result of a process whereby power becomes an inevitable element, ” he added.
Rita Padawangi, an urban expert at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), added an argument saying that the shrinking quantity and quality of lakes in the Ciliwung watersheds had reduced the water infiltration rate.
Hydrologist Fatchy Muhammad of the Indonesian Water Society stressed that all relevant stakeholders must change their paradigm into achieving zero-runoff by installing abundant infiltration wells, given the interconnected problems of drought during the dry season.
The typical geological structure of Greater Jakarta land has good potential to absorb water until the pressurised aquifer layer at a depth of over 200 metres "because it comprises layers of clay and sand, ” Fatchy said. - The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network