A study has shown that Java island will remain the most prone area in the country for water-related disasters, because of violations of land use permits and the island’s rapid population growth.
With the rise of rainfall reaching 50 millimeters per day from the monthly average of 200 millimeters, and the La Nina phenomenon expected until March, State Minister for the Environment Rachmat Witoelar said worse landslide tragedies would likely occur in the next two months.
“What we expect are worse disasters in the next two months,” he told reporters Friday. He urged local administrations to relocate people living near disaster-prone areas across the country soon.
The ministry’s study shows some 603 subdistrict areas in East Java province, 531 areas in Central Java and 430 areas in West Java as being “very vulnerable” to landslides. Meanwhile in Sumatra, there are 43 regencies vulnerable to landslides, of which 16 areas are located in the West Sumatra province. It said 24 regencies in Sulawesi and 26 areas in Kalimantan were also exposed to landslides.
The government said West Java province experienced about 77 landslides during the period of 2003 to 2005, leaving 166 people dead. The landslides badly damaged some 2,000 houses and 140 hectares of paddy lands.
The ministry of agriculture said floods had inundated about 70,000 hectares of rice fields in the past three months. The recent landslides and floods that struck Central and East Java have killed more than 100 people.
The overflow from Java’s longest river, the Bengawan Solo, has displaced tens of thousands of people — hundreds of thousands of whom remain in shelters.
Data from the ministry says about 31 percent of forest lands or about 11,023 hectares along the Bengawan Solo river have been turned to agricultural production fields since 2000. It said another 97,216 hectares of river bank land has been turned into residential areas.
Minister Rachmat said local administrations have worsened the environment, triggering natural disasters.
“Officials at local administrations still award licenses for areas prone to landslides and floods for business aims,” he said.
The ministry has proposed ways to improve environmental conditions to help reduce the occurrence of natural disasters. It said local administrations had to clean and extend the capacity of rivers to help avoid floods.
“There must be a temporary moratorium for cutting trees on Java island,” the ministry said. Rachmat said his office had proposed the moratorium in the last two years to help save Java.
Masnellyarti Hilman, deputy minister for environmental management, said her office had also proposed the establishment of nets along the rivers to stop waste entering the rivers.
“We also suggested the government continue transmigration and family planning programs to control the population,” she said. The ministry has also proposed the use of a vertical system for residential facilities in urban areas. The ministry’s long-term plan is to introduce tougher law enforcements on land use management systems.