Editorial – Disaster Mismanagement

Every year the capital Jakarta is inundated with floods, leaving tens of millions of people in one of the world’s most crowded and badly planned cities literally up to their necks in fetid water.

And yet, as each year rolls by, the authorities continue to be caught off-guard and express faux shock that yet more floodwaters have diverged on residential and business areas.

Now, as the rainy season reaches its zenith, the capital is once again under water in what officials say is the worst flooding in five years – tragically claiming the lives of some 50 people in recent days and rendering 345,000 homeless as the city ground to a sodden halt.

If this isn’t a case of sheer incompetence on the part of city planners and disaster management officials, we don’t know what is.

And if anyone in positions of power needs reminding that the rainy season is an annual occurrence in Indonesia and that parts of Jakarta – which lies beside the Java Sea – are below sea level and are massively prone to flooding unless precautionary measures like run-off channels are put into place, they do not deserve to be in office one day more.

At least one minister blamed the flooding on massive overdevelopment of inner-city areas with little regard for the environment, particularly citing the ceaseless building of shopping malls – as if mall-dense Jakarta requires more mega shopping complexes.

“There are too many malls in the capital city,” the state-run Antara news agency quoted Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar as saying over the weekend.

Meanwhile, that the State Palace in downtown Jakarta was also in danger of flooding should serve as a national embarrassment to all concerned.

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