Today was one of those days that I will remember as ‘an experience’. Torrential monsoon rain started in the early hours and was still tipping down when I left home at 6.30am. I managed to get to school on time but within hours the water along the road outside had risen a massive 20 cm and the school quadrangle was filled to the brim with water. My school is in a district called Pulu Mas in north Jakarta and, according to my colleagues. we were about due for some serious floods in the area, the last time being in 2007. Just my luck!
So back to my day. The water rose steadily all morning and by 9am the decision was made to send the few kids who had made it in, home. The water on the road adjacent to the school was already knee-deep and most cars struggled to get through. By midday all roads in the district were flooded and impassable. Since the decision was made to close the school tomorrow due to likelihood of heavy rain overnight, there was no way I was going to wait at school for the water to recede and risk being stuck for the weekend. Around 2pm I decided to take my chances and head off. Within 100 m of the school the flood water was thigh-deep and, as I was soon to find out, flood water had covered every street on my normal route home. No point hailing a cab, bajaj or ojek so walking was the only option available. The picture shows the level of flood water I walked through. The worst part was crossing the main road; I couldn’t see the central reservation due to the amount of water and the pot-holes that I knew were there, were similarly invisible. After getting soaked by trucks ploughing through water next to me, I gave up trying to keep the top of my trousers dry and just kept wading on. It took me over 1.5 hours to get home, walking barefoot mostly. When I reached my road, the water from the canal opposite my apartment building had already receded so, with shoes back on, I walked the last 300m or so with smile on my face and finally unlocked my apartment door at 3.40pm!
Although flooding in Pulu Mas doesn’t happen every year, for many parts of central Jakarta flooding IS an annual problem. The city lies in a low, flat basin, averaging only 7 meters (23 ft) above sea level whilst 40% of the city, particularly the northern areas (lucky me!), are actually below sea level. The combination of the city’s rivers, canal system, high tides and the Monsoon all contribute to the horrendous floods that hit various areas of Jakarta every year. Unbelievably, Jakarta is also sinking about 5 to 10 centimeters yearly, which will make widespread flooding even more likely. The core infrastructure of Jakarta is particularly poor and events like this, make it even worse. The government promises action but it rarely happens. Corruption is rife here in Indonesia and affects every civil engineering project and flood management system that might make a difference. For the people of Jakarta this is nothing new and ‘it’s just the way it is’ is the phrase I hear most often when I ask why things don’t get fixed. It makes me very sad that such a wonderful country is at the mercy of money-grabbing bureaucrats who don’t give a damn about who is affected by their greed.
Categories: Just Plain Blog