Indonesia braces for prolonged drought

Indonesia braces for prolonged drought

Illustration. Farmers pump water in the lake that begins to dry up in Balongan, Indramayu, West Java. (ANTARA PHOTO/Dedhez Anggara/kye/18).

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Hydro-meteorological disasters have over many years dominated natural disasters in Indonesia, which is often flooded during rainy season and very dry and even extremely dry in certain regions during dry season.

Located on the equator line and between Asia and Australia, Indonesia has only two seasons -- rain and dry. The dry season is usually between March and September, while rainy season between September and March.

September is usually transitional period where rains begin to fall across the country. But, up to September 10 this year, many regions remain very dry as rains have not come for months.

Currently, drought hits some regions in Indonesia, especially on the islands of Java and Nusa Tenggara. The drought hit 4,053 villages in 888 sub-districts located in 111 districts and cities in 11 provinces.

Some 4.87 million people in the country are affected by this year`s drought, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).

"The dry season is forecast to last until September 2018 and reach its peak during the August-September period. Those islands are hit by the drought almost every year," BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho noted on Sept 7, 2018.

The drought has also affected the agriculture sector, as farmers had to spend additional funds of some Rp800 thousand to rent water pumps and buy diesel fuel to water their paddy fields.

"Some farmers have modified their water pumps by replacing diesel oil with LPG and saved some Rp100 thousand to Rp150 thousand," he remarked.

Last August, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto warned the people of possible prolonged drought, which has triggered forest fires on Kalimantan and Sumatra islands.

The government has intensified efforts to prevent forest fires with the support of the military and local people.

"Compared to last year, the forest fires are now less, because we have been all out in anticipating and preventing them," said Wiranto.

The authorities have built more reservoirs and dykes, provide water pumps, and set up special task forces to patrol areas prone to forest fires.

Furthermore, President Joko Widodo recently held a meeting with a number of cabinet ministers and chief of the Board of Logistics (Bulog) to see what has to be done and what were already done to forestall possible damaging impact of prolonged drought.

The meeting was attended by among others Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Darmin Nasution, Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman, Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita, and Minister of State Enterprises Rini Sumarno and Bulog chief Budi Waseso.

"The dry season is a bit extreme that the President considered it necessary to check our readiness especially in rice stock," Nasution told reporters after the meeting.

Bulog Chief Budi Wasesa said Bulog has been well prepared in facing the dry season.

"From the beginning we have gone to the market to raise stock. Now we have granaries full of stock especially in Java," he said.

In East Nusa Tenggara Province, which is the worst affected by drought, extreme dry weather has hit the districts of East Suma, Negekeo, Lembata, and Rote Ndao.

The four districts had not have rains for the last six months, according to Apolinaris Geru, head of the Kupang climatology station.

The areas had received no rain for over 60 days, he remarked.

Extreme weather has affected Temu/Kanatang and Kawangu in East Sumba; Danga in Nagekeo; Wulandoni in Lembata; and Feapopi in Rote Ndao.

Other parts of the province have received rain but with low precipitation of between 0 and 50 mm.

In West Java, drought has affected 22 districts and cities since August this year, causing water shortage.

In fact, the West Java provincial administration has declared a drought emergency alert from August to October 2018.

"Based on data as of Sept 5, a total of 286,802 households face water shortage," Budi Budiman, an official of the local disaster mitigation office (BPBD), stated in early September 2018.

The local BPBD has, so far, distributed a total of 4,307,915 liters of clean water to those affected by the drought.

The affected districts and municipalities are Bogor District, Bogor Municipality, Puwarkarta, Sukabumi District, Sukabumi Municipality, Bekasi District, Karawang, Cianjur, West Bandung, Bandung, Cimahi, Garut, Tasikmalaya, Sumedang, Indramayu, Tasikmalaya Municipality, Cirebon District, Cirebon Municipality, Kuningan, Banjar, Ciamis, and Pangandaran.

The prolonged dry season has also affected farming areas measuring 41,946 hectares in the province.

In Central Java, the district of Banyumas is among areas facing the threat of severe dry season.

Eight sub-districts - Tambak, Sumpiuh, Banyumas, Somagede, Kalibagor, Cilongok, Purwojati, and Kebasen, are facing clean water shortage.

The local authorities have supplied clean water to ease suffering of those affected by drought.

Hopefully, as forecast by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), rains will fall next October in many parts of the country.

Editing by Rahmad Nasution