Jakarta’s Flood Problem Totally Solvable, for $9.2b
Jakarta. The floodwaters that inundated many parts of the Greater Jakarta area this week have so far caused Rp 3 trillion ($234 million) in losses, the Indonesian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or Kadin, said in an estimate on Wednesday.
“At business centers across Jakarta there were tens of thousands of shops and offices closed,” said Kadin Jakarta deputy chairman Sarman Simanjorang. “Even if they do open, there are no customers because transportation systems are paralyzed and many employees can’t get to work.”
Kadin said that as many as 75,000 businesses were affected by the floods that hit Jakarta on Monday and Tuesday. The industry group’s estimate of the floods’ total economic impact relies on the assumption that each business stands to make, on average, Rp 20 million a day.
Sarman said the figure did not account for losses incurred due to disruption in the distribution of goods, as well as property and infrastructure damage or firms’ drop in productivity.
However, Sarman said the estimated economic impact was much less than the Rp 20 trillion that businesses lost in the January 2013 floods that hit the capital.
The final figure this year could still rise, as officials have warned more flooding may strike Jakarta in the next three weeks.
On Monday, 307 areas were designated flood-affected zones, compared to 634 at this point last year.
Among the affected zones were the business districts along Jalan Sudirman and Jalan M.H. Thamrin, including areas around City Hall and the State Palace.
As rains receded on Tuesday, the number of affected areas fell to 93 across all five of Jakarta’s municipalities.
As of Wednesday, 33 zones remained affected in North, West and East Jakarta.
President Joko Widodo met with Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama as well as his counterparts from West Java and Banten, Ahmad Heryawan and Rano Karno, on Wednesday.
Joko said he wanted a comprehensive solution to the floods that paralyzed Jakarta every year.
“I know there have been efforts to mitigate as well as prevent [floods], such as reforestation and increasing the number of open green spaces,” Joko said. “I need everyone to focus on handling this issue.”
Joko urged officials in Jakarta and the neighboring provinces to work together.
“Let’s focus so that this problem that has been plaguing us for years is resolved, or at least have its impact reduced as much as we can.”
The president said that the central government was ready to play a greater role.
“We will work quickly if everyone knows what their jobs are, be it the governors, the ministers, the mayors,” he said. “Everyone needs to take anticipatory measures, before [flooding] actually occurs.”
Basuki said this week’s flooding would not have been as severe if state-owned power company PLN had not cut off power to pumps at the Pluit polder in North Jakarta.
The pumps are meant to channel floodwater out to sea and thus control water levels in the central part of Jakarta, the governor said.
To prevent floods in the western part of the city, the government plans to clear the major waterways of illegal squatters’ homes.
Two new flood control dams are also in the pipeline, as well as plans to connect the West Flood Canal and the East Flood Canal to distribute Jakarta’s water flow evenly.
For flooding in the eastern part of Jakarta, the government plans to build three more dams.
“This should make Jakarta flood-free. But it takes time,” Basuki said.
A flood of cash needed
The Jakarta Water Management Agency said the city needs Rp 118 trillion ($9.2 billion) to make Jakarta flood-free.
For comparison, that amount of money is greater than the 2015 state budget’s combined allocation for the ministries of health, agriculture, maritime affairs and fisheries, forestry, energy and mineral resources, and public housing. It is also 18 percent larger than the nation’s defense spending this year.
“Actually the budget is not the main issue, but the implementation in the field, which makes the effort slower than expected,” agency chief Agus Priyono Jendro said, adding that efforts to clear the capital’s waterways of illegal homes are often met with resistance.
The city is also mulling improvements to its drainage system, which Basuki said could currently only cope with up to 50 millimeters of rain — half of Monday’s levels.
The government is prioritizing the drainage system updates along Jalan Sudirman and Jalan Thamrin, where an underground mass rapid transit rail line is being built.
The governor’s assistant for spatial planning, Tardjuki, said Jakarta also aimed to revive the Jakarta Integrated Tunnel plan, to act as an underground motorway and flood control system when it rains.
Tardjuki said at least one private firm, Antaredja Mulia Jaya, had expressed interest in financing and building the JIT, modeled after Kuala Lumpur’s SmartTunnel.
The JIT, he said, “can solve two problems at once: traffic and flooding. The government will not spend anything. It’s all financed by private investors. But we will monitor progress and provide input.”
Two tunnels are being proposed, one in the east connecting Bale Kambang, East Jakarta, and Manggarai, South Jakarta; and in the west, connecting Ulujami, South Jakarta, and Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta.
Water agency chief Agus said the government was earmarking Rp 2.7 trillion this year to finish erecting a seawall and to clear rivers of garbage. The money will also help build enough pumps to make a meaningful impact on flooding in the city’s vulnerable northern areas.
The agency plans to install new pumps in areas near Jakarta’s coast, at Kamal, Angke, Muara Karang, Sentiong and Sunter Hilir.
“We will start setting up the pumps this year, but it will take two or three years to complete. It depends on conditions on the ground,” Agus said on Wednesday.
The cost of the city’s planned 32-kilometer seawall will be split between the government and private sector. City Hall and the Public Works Ministry plan to fund four kilometers each.
“Pumps cannot prevent flooding from the seas without sufficient sea embankments. It’s our responsibility,” Agus said.
The project will start this year, and coastal areas with the lowest elevation will be assigned highest priority. These are Kamal, Tanjungan, Kali Asin, Luar Batang, the Jalan R.E. Martadinata corridor, Cilincing, and Marunda. Ancol will be the responsibility of the park’s operator.
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