Since the 2004 Aceh tsunami, people have started to focus on preventive actions to answer the unpredictable challenges of nature. As part of these efforts, the National Development Planning Board (BAPPENAS), the Coordinating Agency for Disaster Management (BAKORNAS) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) launched a risk reduction program last month. Suprayoga Hadi of BAPPENAS and Hakan Borkman of UNDP talked recently about the program with The Jakarta Post's Novia D. Rulistia.
Question: Can you tell me about this joint program?
Suprayoga Hadi (S): The concept of the program embraces four aspects. First is to strengthen the regulation process; second is to generate the complete regulation by authorized institutions; third is to educate people; and the last is the engagement of participants in the program.
We need to do this gradually because the risk reduction process needs to be tested first, and once that's finished, we can then enter the program into schools.
Disasters are unpredictable things, so people in all areas must be prepared, including those who live in places that rarely experience disasters. We cannot react only when a disaster happens and becomes a problem. We must work at changing that kind of culture.
Hakan Bjorkman: There are steps for this project involving policy, legal aspects, and regulatory framework. These steps involve massive training and capacity development for local administrations, so that local officials will be strong enough to be able to plan and integrate disaster risk reduction into the local routine.
Then comes community mobilization, like information and campaigns to raise awareness about disaster risks, and about what to do in order to create the culture of safety, which are the most important of the whole process.
Is it possible to change the culture of Indonesians to make them more alert to disasters?
S: Culture is embedded in a community. So when there's an effort to introduce a disaster risk-reducing program, it means that we're trying to remind people of their own customs because they already have a basis for such a program. In Nias for example. They have local wisdom that is handed down from generation to generation. They understand and know where to go when tsunami-triggering earthquakes happen. Our communities already have this kind of thing, but the problem is that many people have migrated to cities like Jakarta. When a disaster happens in Jakarta, they do not know what to do because they are used to living on a mountain, but now they live in a city that is prone to flooding, so how do they know about dealing with floods?
The real effort is educative. We cannot generalize about all communities, but for certain areas, we need to establish on education systems so that people will be more alert about mitigation aspects or disaster preparedness.
H: Indonesia is one of the countries in the world most affected by natural disasters. It is a dangerous place to live because it has more earthquakes than other countries, 128 active volcanoes and 5,000 rivers, a third of which pass through highly populated areas, with the potential for flooding.
Indonesia is not different from most other countries -- the country's focus is mainly on responding to disasters when they happen. What this project is trying to do is to help the government provide aid -- and to be more proactive. Also, to look a bit forward to disaster risk reduction and the impact of the disasters. To change the culture to be more alert to face disasters is something that is absolutely possible. Look at what happened in the communities hit by the tsunami. They're completely aware of the risk of tsunamis now.
In a way, unfortunately, you often need a major disaster and then people become very much aware. So, awareness does exist among Indonesians, but they need to take the next step, and they need to mobilize and to assess the risk of disasters.
Which region most intensively needs the disaster preparedness program?
H : The project will target communities mainly on the West coast of Sumatra and around Java and Sulawesi. There will be many kinds of training, including self-managed risk assessment, so the community can get together and map out their vulnerability to floods or earthquakes. They will also be trained to make evacuation plans.
There will also be training for architects and house builders so they can design and build better earthquake resistant houses. The community can also change their housing structures to become more resilient.
S : A similar program has been conducted, in coordination with the National Coordination Body, in Padang, West Sumatra. Here, educative measures have entered the curriculum of local schools.
Tsunami drills have been undertaken in and Bali and West Sumatra, where people joined a training program on how they should react when an earthquake hits. People were quite responsive to the drilling program.
We taught them about which routes they should take and which buildings they should go to when a disaster occurs. More or less, they understood this, but to make it work, we just had to formulize the steps well.
Land structuring will be the base for the rest of the development process, like in Padang, where the administration already has a tsunami shelter, and on evacuation routes. This kind of thing needs more coordination among the central government, local administrations and the people. This preparedness effort needs to start from the upper levels of society.
How about the coordination with local administrations?
S : The central government's duty is more to facilitate the program. We're trying to motivate local administrations to develop a preparedness culture. If we always feed them, they will never become independent. This facilitation is conducted in the form of technical assistance and joint planning coordination with BAPPENAS and the Regional Development Planning Board (BAPEDA).
They have asked us about the regional action plan, because we are experienced in establishing the National Action Plan. The three-year plan, for the period 2006-2009, sets out priorities, ranging from disaster aspect research to development of early warning systems. This complementary plan cannot be conducted altogether for a long-term period, it has to be updated every four years because the characteristics of disasters are dynamic.
H : The central government needs to create a standard for the disaster risk reduction policy; the framework required for the program to run. They should also monitor if the local administrations are accountable in their disaster risk management. Currently, their performance is much improved because after the 2004 tsunami, the central government and local administrations cooperated incredibly well in the relief effort.
What do you think about people's trust in Indonesia's early warning system?
S : This is a global agreement, different measurement results are due to different matrixes used during the calculation. In Indonesia, we use measurements from the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency. There's a lack of funding and external support for the early warning system. The budget for 2007 totaled Rp 12.3 trillion, Rp 10 trillion of which went to Aceh, Rp 600 to 700 million for Yogya, and Rp 1.8 trillion for preparedness programs. And for next year, there will be an increase for the preparedness program by Rp 2.4 trillion, but we can't allocate the funds for purchasing early warning equipment. To-date we only have such devices in a few places nationwide. The early warning system requires good networking, so we can rely on Japanese or U.S. devices.
H : This is a perfect example of the need for international cooperation, through which countries can help each other to get correct information.
How long will it take to make this program a successful one? S : We can't look at this issue easily, there's so much interrelation among sectors. The regulation must be prepared first. We already have the law for disaster management, but like I said, there are steps that must be taken. But the target, should be three years to make this familiarization process work.
And if during these three years, then disasters suddenly hit, there has to be special action taken. It must all be conducted simultaneously, with a balance between reactive measures and the preparedness programs in order to make communities more ready to face disasters. Within the process of recovery, we will also provide educative programs because preparedness itself will have been shaped during reaction and recovery.
H : This project is a strategic way to support the government's bigger effort to deal with disasters. To create a culture of safety will take a long time, it needs to be well organized. Some people need a disaster to become more alert, but there are also other traditional norms and long-standing frameworks on how to handle disasters. The target is for us to have good preparedness within two years. But for a huge country like Indonesia, it may take many more years.
Do you think the risk reduction program can be effective in Indonesia?
S : The effectiveness can be seen from the pilot projects that we have done. If we look at what we have been doing in some regions, it seems to be effective. But nationally, we should see whether it is fully effective in the next two years. The effectiveness of the program in a community will be highly dependent upon the effectiveness on regional institutions in enforcing regulations.
H : Absolutely. Good disaster management requires community mobilization. The local administration and municipalities are the ones that need to organize this. The equal partnership between the community and local administration will be the way to make this program effective.