Environmental News Archive

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Villas Of The Rich Blamed For Floods

Feb 17 2007 (TODAY)

Officials urged to build better drainage systems following floods in

JAKARTA - Indonesian leaders must bear responsibility for floods which
inundated the capital and other recent disasters to hit the country, said
the country's Vice-President Jusuf Kalla.

Jakarta is still struggling to clear up the mess from floods earlier this
month, which killed 85 people and forced half a million others to flee
their homes.

While climate change was partly to blame, Mr Kalla said Jakarta's Governor
Sutiyoso and other officials should take responsibility for the
devastation because of over-building, which had not been accompanied by
better drainage systems. "The richer people are, the more villas they
build. So the mountains are full of villas. The green areas, including the
rivers, are getting smaller and it is not balanced with a proper drainage
system," he said.

"Sutiyoso must also be responsible for what has happened, be that good or
bad," he added. "But on the other hand, the national government must also
be held responsible."

Mr Sutiyoso has said that the disaster was a "cyclical natural phenomenon"
and that neighbouring regions also had to be involved in flood prevention

But critics have accused his administration of dragging its feet in taking
steps to protect the capital, such as the delayed building of another
flood canal.

A recent construction boom has seen shopping malls, tower blocks and
villas built over traditional drainage areas in Jakarta, which is partly
below sea level. Satellite photographs chart the shrinking areas of
vegetation and ever-expanding urban sprawl in Jakarta over the past 30
years. Mr Kalla said a joint effort by the city and authorities in
adjoining areas would reduce the impact of the annual floods.

Construction projects have reduced the ability of the ground to absorb
water and will now have to include flood prevention measures. "Now I have
made it obligatory to plant trees, build water drainage tanks and water
ponds," he said.

In Jakarta, Mr Kalla said canals built by former Dutch colonists in the
1920s would be repaired and new ones built to improve drainage. An early
warning system is already in place, but Mr Kalla said many residents were
so used to the annual floods that they only took it seriously when the
waters reached their doorsteps. - AFP