Flash flood that hit the West Flood Canal (Kanal Banjir Barat), which is the downstream of Garang River (Kali Garang) in 1990, still left some terrible memory for the locals. During the event, many of them witnessed how their neighbors and even families fell victims, lost their lives and possessions. According to the incident record, the flash flood in that year inundated more than 100 houses and claimed 47 lives. Material loss was estimated to be at 8.5 billion rupiahs. The flood can be considered as one of the worst that ever occurred in Semarang City. Afterwards, flood along the Garang watershed reoccurred in 1993, 2000, 2002, and 2008, although not as severe as the one in 1990. It is noteworthy that the West Flood Canal in 1990 was not as properly managed as at present day. The strong current from Garang River always looms the surrounding residents every rainy season.
Currently, however, the canal has undergone significant changes. The area is now better managed, and even functions as a tourist destination. The expansion and dredging of sedimentation through normalization project that was undertaken since 2010 until 2013 has succeeded to make the current flow more seamlessly, and reduce any possibility of overflow. In addition, the Jatibarang dam, which was completed in 2014 in Kreo area, also plays significant role to control the rain water runoff. Kreo River is still a part of the Garang watershed ecosystem.
Today, flash flood seems to be no longer a problem for the residents surrounding the Garang downstream and watershed. However, no one can ever predict when and from which direction disaster would strike. Some residents in the northern part of Semarang, such as those from Krobokan and Panggung Lor, admitted that they are still exposed to flood. Although it does not directly come from the West Flood Canal, the water overflow and puddle remain an indication that people must not lower their guard. Ceaseless heavy rain that lasts for hours still frequently causes flood in settlement areas around the West Flood Canal. In fact, it also affects several zones in the northern part which are also affected by the tidal flood. At the Garang River upstream, which is the Semarang Regency, particularly in Ungaran area, flood has been a routine occurrence over the past 10 years. Throughout 2017 to the beginning of 2018 alone, there were 6 floods in Ungaran area, Semarang Regency. Such events had never been expected by the locals, which happened to live at higher landscape. Several residents argued that there were two main reasons of flood: waste and land conversion.
Collaboration with various parties to support community resilience building
The fact that flood is still an actual potential disaster across Garang watershed prompted Mercy Corps Indonesia (MCI) throughout 2017 to 2018 to organize a program that focuses on flood mitigation in Garang watershed, with emphasis on the coordination and communication between two areas, namely Semarang City and Semarang Regency. The program, entitled TRANSFORM, which stands for Transboundary Flood Risk Management through Governance and Innovative Information Technology, is a flood risk reduction program funded by the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP) through Water Window Challenge, which is also supported by Z Zurich Foundation.
To determine the priority activities for disaster risk reduction (DRR) in both areas, Mercy Corps Indonesia conducted a series of assessment in several kelurahans (urban village) and villages. The study, applying the Zurich Flood Resilience Measurement Tool, was completed with the support from IRDEM, a research agency from Semarang City. The outcome of this assessment thus laid the foundation for various activities aiming to enhance community resilience in facing flood. From the various action plans expressed in the Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) document, Mercy Corps Indonesia collaborates with the IUCCE (Initiative for Urban Climate Change and Environment) to support the implementation of several priority actions that were determined and agreed by the community. After facilitating the establishment of 8 Disaster Aware Groups (KSB) in the Garang watershed downstream in 2017, this year (2018), it facilitates 3 other villages/kelurahan in Semarang Regency to establish the Disaster Risk Reduction Forum (DRRF/FRPB) at local level. Other than capacity building, these community-based groups are also provided with logistic support, such as the emergency bag (tas siaga) containing first aid kit.
As a part of the community knowledge and skill enhancement measures in managing disaster risk, a workshop on community preparedness to face flood and landslide was held in early July 2018. The activity was a collaboration between MCI, IUCCE, Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) of Central Java, BPBD of Semarang City, BPBD of Semarang Regency, and Indonesian Red Cross (PMI). The workshop was attended by representatives from various government offices (dinas) and community elements from the two affected areas.
The Executive Chair of the Disaster Management Agency of Central Java (BPBD Jawa Tengah), Sarwa Pramana, said that the spearhead of disaster preparedness is actually the community itself. It is the community who should react in fast response. They are expected to be able to help themselves, their family, neighbor, as well as surrounding environment. Thus, the community must be equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills to handle disaster in their surrounding. “When disaster occurs, the ones who can perform rescue the fastest are the locals themselves. It would take time for aid to reach the location,” he added.
Disaster handling must be inclusive
During the workshop, inclusiveness was raised as one of the topics discussed. One of the roles of Mercy Corps Indonesia in this issue is through the TATTs (Technical Assistance and Training Teams) program, which established the Disability Inclusion Service Unit for Disaster Mitigation, a.k.a. Unit LIDI. Unit LIDI was established to meet the country’s Constitution’s mandate, which is equal rights for all citizens, including people with disability, to obtain services in all aspects, including during disaster mitigation. Unit LIDI is responsible to promote and ensure inclusiveness in all measures applied by BPBD. This, for instance, is realized during development of contingency plan, in which the unit is involved to ensure that everyone’s needs in disaster handling can be accommodated. Basuki, a representative from Unit LIDI who was one of the workshop speakers, explained that there are so many aspects that the general public and SAR officers need to understand about helping PWDs. As a vulnerable group, PWDs need special attention during emergency/disaster situation.
In addition, MCI and IUCCE also support communities living in flood-vulnerable areas by making a list of emergency contacts and communication flowchart during disaster emergency situation. It is critical for the people to know whom to contact during disaster in order to ensure proper coordination in the disaster handling measures. Also for this purpose, AtmaGo apps was introduced as an alternative media to share information, including matters associated with disaster. Good access toward information is believed to help increasing community’s resilience.
With regard to sustainability, a community-based disaster risk reduction (CBDRM) document was already completed, which is hoped to be used as a guidance for the community. The CBDRM document has incorporated various action plans, including that of evacuation. Government offices and other relevant actors might use the document as a reference and recommendation to develop effective and sustainable DRR strategies.