Jakarta – Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Executive Director Umbu Wulang T. Paranggi says that the flash floods and landslides in 10 regencies and cities in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) were triggered by damage to the environment.
Paranggi said that the environmental damage has been caused by a shift in land function, mining and illegal logging.
He gave as an example the shift in land function in the East Sumba upstream area for the interests of investment in sugar factories. According to Paranggi, the forest was cut down and replaced by sugar cane plantations.
"This has also had an impact on the escalation of big floods in East Sumba", Paranggi told CNN Indonesia on Monday April 5.
Paranggi said that the Malaka regency itself has become a regular flood zone where development can be found in upstream areas. In addition to this there are also mining sites in the upstream and river areas.
"But to this day there are still these kinds of practices, there is mining in river areas as well as upstream regions", he said.
Meanwhile, said Paranggi, in the Adonara region which is an island in NTT there is illegal logging in the Boleng Mountain area.
According to Paranggi this is the first time flash floods have inundated Adonara. Prior to this, the island was not included in the map of disaster prone areas.
Paranggi said that people in Lembata also live in a disaster prone area, depicting local communities as being similar to those living on the slopes of the active volcano Mount Merapi in Central Java.
"It's actually only a matter of time looking at the escalation of the many eruptions there", said Paranggi.
Paranggi does not deny that there are natural factors causing the floods in NTT so it is easy to declare that the disaster is caused by heavy rainfall. Nevertheless, the impact of heavy rainfall depends on the absorption capacity of the environment in a region.
If the absorption capacity of an area is still good, said Paranggi, the area is still capable of accommodating heavy rain. But the absorption of an area can become inadequate because of environmental damage.
"If the absorption capacity is not good automatically it overflows all over the place", he said.
A number of regencies and cities in NTT have been hit by flash floods and landslides. Scores or people have reportedly died and hundreds forced to evacuate to East Flores regency and Lembata. (iam/fra)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Walhi: Kerusakan Lingkungan Picu Banjir Bandang di NTT".]