Preparing for floods in Indonesia as climate change takes effect

News & Publicationon December 18, 2021

Ahead of International Human Solidarity Day on Monday December 20, Australia Indonesia Youth Exchange Program (AIYEP) intern Lachlan Abbott writes that Indonesia and the world needs to prepare for more intense flooding disasters in the future due to climate change.

Dealing with flooding across Indonesia has long been a challenge for the Indonesian people. From Jakarta’s consistent, yearly flooding to flash floods on the slopes of Mount Arjuno in East Java, monsoon rainfall can often leave many Indonesians dealing with significant flooding disasters.

The impact of climate change will likely worsen these events.

With greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet’s atmosphere and climate, significant flooding events will become more frequent and more intense. This is for two main reasons:

  1. As global temperatures increase, more ice melts and sea levels rise, contributing to coastal cities such as Jakarta becoming inundated.
  2. As global temperatures increase, more water evaporates into air which can also hold more water vapour at higher temperatures. Therefore, when it rains it becomes more intense, causing more flash flooding as natural river drainage and unnatural urban sewerage systems come under increased stress.

Floods can also be caused by other human activities, such as redirecting natural water sources for agricultural purposes and deforestation increasing erosion.

Flash floods cause significant infrastructure and property damage, leading to service disruption and significant challenges to human development.

Additionally, flash flooding can cause significant loss of life. Sadly, Indonesia and nearby Timor-Leste recently experienced this first hand as Cyclone Seroja caused widespread flooding which killed at least 113 people in April 2021.

With these events likely becoming more frequent as climate change intensifies in the future, it is important to implement several strategies to improve disaster preparedness in Indonesia.

How to improve disaster preparedness for floods

Firstly, it must be remembered that flooding is a localized event. One small suburb of a major city like Jakarta can be affected, while other areas may not be impacted at all. Therefore, it is important to share localized information of which areas are impacted by flooding in an intense rain event.

Social media can be one way to do this. Setting up WhatsApp groups to communicate essential information about local areas suffering from extreme flooding during an intense rainfall can help others avoid danger. Sharing information and listening to official messages from the Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB) is also important to ensure Indonesians affected by flooding avoid the most dangerous areas.

Additionally, knowledge of your local area is essential in preparing for flooding. For example, knowing where high ground is to escape to is crucial, as well as which low-lying areas may be vulnerable to flooding. With this knowledge and consideration of expected weather conditions, residents can also prepare their home through methods such as sandbagging, which will help prevent significant infrastructure damage. Families should also prepare clean drinking water and an emergency kit of supplies. Through this planning within families and neighborhood communities, the many of the immediate dangers of floods can be avoided.

During a flood, families and communities can also take several steps to mitigate potential hazards. For example, it is recommended that:

  • Household electricity is turned off and electrical items are unplugged to avoid contact with flood waters and potential electrocution
  • Evacuate early to avoid any serious risks to health
  • Avoid walking and do not drive through flood waters due to potential invisible dangers such as undercurrents or potholes
  • If you must walk through flood waters, use a stick or similar object to check the depth of the water and identify strong currents.

Through these steps, Indonesia and the world can prepare for more serious flooding in the future caused by climate change. To learn more about disaster preparedness, follow RedR Indonesia on social media and utilize their accredited training courses.

Photo Credit: Kate Lamb, Freelance journalist (katelamb.com)