JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Numerous natural disasters have hit Indonesia since the beginning of 2021.
According to the country’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB), 221 natural disasters were recorded from 1 January to 26 January at 3.00 PM (4.00 PM Singapore time).
The BNPB’s data showed 146 floods in several regions, followed by 35 landslides, 29 typhoons, five tidal waves, five earthquakes, and one forest fire.
The disasters have destroyed many buildings, from homes to public facilities.
As many as 9,714 homes and 85 facilities have been damaged so far, the BNPB stated.
The agency called on Indonesians to be on alert, as the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) warned that the peak of the rainy season will last until February.
Ring of fire
Indonesia lies in the so-called ‘Ring of Fire’ — an area around the Pacific Ocean with high volcanic and seismic activities. Around 90 per cent of the world’s tremors occur in this area.
Many other countries are located within the Ring of Fire such as Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and many more.
Each country has a different vulnerability to earthquakes, depending on the proximity of the quake’s epicentre, housing standards, and so on.
The deadliest earthquake in the Ring of Fire was recorded on 22 May 1960 when a 9.5-magnitude hit Chile. Even the USGS dubbed it as the most devastating quake since 1900.
The earthquake—followed by the tsunami—in the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 shattered Sumatera Island, especially Aceh Province. At first, the tremor was recorded at 9.1 Richter Scale, then up to 9.3.
The effects spread to neighbouring Malaysia and Thailand and made ripples even as far as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The quake and tsunami were estimated to kill around 230,000, NASA data showed.
Are illegal mining activities and deforestation to blame for floods and landslides?
Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) claimed that illegal mining activities and forest encroachment were among the factors that triggered floods and landslides in West Bogor, Bogor Regency, West Java on the second week of January.
Meanwhile, floods inundated at least 24,379 houses, forced 39,549 people to seek refuge and killed 15 in South Kalimantan as of 17 January, the BNPB data stated.
Green activists claimed that illegal mining activities and forest land conversion have been blamed for South Kalimantan floods. Official data from the KLHK revealed that the area of natural forest in the province shrank 62.8 per cent from 1990 to 2019.
Global Forest Watch (GFW) data, as cited in Liputan6, showed that Indonesia lost 324,000 hectares of its primary forest as a result of the South Kalimantan floods — equal to 187 megatonnes of carbon dioxide. emissions — in 2019.
Besides the high intensity of rainfall, floods in South Kalimantan have been linked with ecological degradation.
Walhi data showed that there are 814 holes owned by 157 coal miners in South Kalimantan. Half the numbers spots are active, the remaining have been abandoned without a reclamation.
Walhi’s South Kalimantan Chapter Director Kisworo Dwi Cahyono said that almost 50 per cent of the province’s forests had been controlled by mining and palm oil companies.
“Disasters in South Kalimantan happen and happen again. There is a flood in the rainy season in the hot season, forest and land fires come. The government still fails to mitigate,” Kisworo said, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.