Reflection on Disaster Mitigation Dialogue in the City of Semarang

As a non-profit organization, the Initiative for Urban Climate Change and Environment (IUCCE) a few days ago(22/1/19) participated in the Interactive Dialogue held at Metro TV Central JavaStudio. The Executive Director IUCCE, Rukuh Setiadi, provided opinions and insights on disaster mitigation,together with the Head of the Semarang City’s Disaster Management Agency(BPBD), Agus Harmunanto and Vice Chairperson of Semarang City’s Regional Representative Council (DPRD), Agung Budi Margono.

IUCCE sees this dialogue as one of the manifestations of the concern of the city government and the council regarding the increase in natural disasters, along with the changing climate and extreme weather events in these rainy seasons. So far, the city government of Semarang with the support of the Central Government has built a number of flood control infrastructures such as retention ponds, dikes, flood pumping systems, river normalization, including the normalization of the East Flood Canal (KBT)following the completion of the West Flood Canal’s (KBB) normalization program and the construction of the Jatibarang Reservoir a few years ago. The city government has also issued a Local Regulation (Perda)that mandates housing developers operating in the hilly areas to build artificial ponds, so that the water can be managed before it reaches city drainage. Without a doubt, these efforts play an important role as a physical-based flood mitigation instrument for the city of Semarang.

However, in the Dialogue IUCCE raised a concern that disaster mitigation is not only about physical and infrastructural-based measures. Rukuh said that mitigation principles need to be seen more broadly. Itis not only direct measures to reduce risk, but also efforts to strengthen the capacity of urban systems and their communities. There is no a city that is resilient to disasters when its community and supporting policy instruments are not available and prepared properly. Therefore, IUCCE underlines the importance of the other four capacities that need to be considered, namely: human,financial, social, and natural capacities.

Agung Budi Margono, who is also alumni of the Master Program in Urban and Regional Planning (MPWK) of Diponegoro University, flags an increase in budget allocation for infrastructure. However,he underlined the importance of spatial plan consistency through a strict permit mechanism, both in land use and building permits. Infrastructure investment inthe downtown and coastal areas will not have much effect when the land use control in the upstream or city’s hinterland is released. At this point, IUCEE considers that efforts to interpret disaster mitigation requirements in the various scale of spatial plan (e.g. Regions, Cities, Areas and Sites) need to be fully understood by the city government, especially the Spatial Planning Office. If this can be implemented properly, then a hope of having more resilient natural capacity to support mitigation can be realized.

Agus Harmunanto reminded that mitigation is not only the duty bond of BPBD because various mitigation approaches and measures are spread across multiple sectors. Mitigation through infrastructure, for example, is the domain of the Public Works Agency.  Even, it is the domain of Department of Public Works for national strategic infrastructure. Efforts to increase financial capacity are closely related to the community’s access ability to obtain funding so that they are able to get out of their vulnerability (e.g. to raise houses, to improve nighborhood drainage, etc.). This is also related to the role of the financial service sectors and the participation of financial institutions, both formal and non-formal. Strengthening social capacity covers, for example, awareness raising and disaster response trainings at the households and community levels, as well as improvement of community institutions. BPBD has increased this social capacity through the establishment and management training on Disaster Preparedness Sub-district (KSB). KSB has been established in a number of vulnerable areas such as in the Beringin Watershed and along the West Flood Canal. Capacity building of the Disaster Preparedness Sub-district is likely to be a regular agenda for the BPBD. This effort aims to make people at the grassroots level understand what actions must be taken to anticipate flood, during evacuation and post-flood disaster. The increasing of social capacity may shape a new consciousness which in the long term it is expected to become a such disaster responsive culture in every communities.

Indeed, disaster mitigation is a broad and technical theme involving the introduction of risk or disaster characteristics, accuracy of data, reliable distribution of information and the application of information technology that can reach those who are vulnerable. In Semarang, IUCCE and the city government of Semarang with the support of Mercy Corps Indonesia has contributed a comprehensive effort to mitigate floods in the Beringin Watershed through the Flood Early Warning System Project. Some actions under FEWS are related to detailed disaster risk assessment, the establishment of disaster responsive groups (KSB), the application of early warning technology, strengthening KSB through disaster evacuation trainings and simulations, and facilitating the development of flood contingency plans. The dialogue session is available at Metro TV Jateng & DIY Youtube channel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *