Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jakarta Floods Not Global Warming

The AP is again reporting on global warming. This time they are citing Jakarta's Environment Minister, Rachmat Witoelar's declaration that global warming is at least partially to blame for the current flooding situation in that city.

If I were the environment minister, I would seek to blame global warming myself. The city is plagued with garbage that clogs sewage systems as well as unbridled construction and development of areas that previously served as water catchments. Add to this the fact that 40% of Jakarta is below sea level and that the government did not repair a broken sea wall and you start to get the picture. Rapid deforestation of areas for more development have destroyed natural breakwaters between the sea and the land. What a relief for the environment minister to have global warming as a popular scapegoat, an excuse that will not be questioned, especially as the UN climate change conference which will be held in Indonesia next week will find it extraordinarily convenient to their purpose.

Jakarta has always experienced annual flooding during the time of the wet season, which runs October to February. Last February, flooding from torrential rain caused rivers to overflow and 60% of Jakarta was underwater. There is rarely a year without flooding. Did the AP article mention that it is raining in Jakarta right now? No.



This photo is not of Jakarta today, it's from last February. Flooding like this has happened many times in the past and gets worse as the drainage problems are not dealt with. Flooding was as bad in February 2002, and in 1996 and so on. However, last February, global warming wasn't to blame as "Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said the main reason for the flooding of Jakarta was the elimination of water catchment areas following the construction of large numbers of buildings."

The truth is that sea levels haven't risen. Land mismanagement and the failure of the government to stem deforestation, rampant construction of buildings in water catchment areas and devise a system for proper waste disposal has led to a crisis in the drainage problem. For Jakarta, flooding is inevitable, with or without global warming.

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