Lessons from Wasior

If there’s no devastating flashfloods drubbing Wasior, maybe none of us who live in Jakarta will ever knew that there’s a place name Wasior, capital city of District of Teluk Wondama. We also probably will never know that Teluk Wondama is a new district as result of regional division of Kabupaten Manokwari. 

Sadly for us, we knew that district after a flashflood swept around 80 percent of the region and resulted in fatalities to at least 124 people died and 127 others remain missing.

National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) and other disaster responds agencies reported clean water, medical personnel, and drugs into the immediate needs of survivors. Access to disaster areas can only be reached by sea because of the airport in Wasior can’t be functioned.

The condition causes the response effort can’t be held quickly and effectively. From the various information collected in the field, it is estimated there are still areas not reached by the rescue team that is estimated there are still many victims that have not been helped by rescue teams that exist on site.

President SBY, while giving a speech responding to disasters in Wasior say in terms of number, the impact of disasters Wasior indeed under other disasters, such as the tsunami in Aceh and North Sumatra, Yogyakarta Earthquake, Tasikmalaya, or West Sumatra. But, nonetheless disaster reduction, humanitarian response must be done to reduce the impact of the disaster.

What distinguishes Wasior with other disasters? Why flash flood disasters in Wasior need to get serious attention from all parties?

In my opinion, there are at least four issues that deserve serious attention of government-related disasters in Wasior. First, there are problem of illegal logging. According to WALHI and reinforced by Jusuf Kalla as chairman of the PMI, in such a severe disaster occurred due to illegal logging practices that occurred in the forests around Wasior.

WALHI said there are at least two companies holding concessions that should be held accountable for the disaster. Both companies are considered to have done encroachment on Wondiboi Mountain Forest Reserves. As a result of encroachment, the ecosystems around Wasior become increasingly vulnerable to disasters.

I will not argue about whether or not illegal logging in Wasior. I believe in the credibility of Walhi, however information from other sources also need attention. Based on their core responsibility, to protect the life and living of their citizens, government has obligation to make sure there’s no such crime against environment without having to deny.

Second, impacts of extreme climate change. Flash floods that occurred in Wasior again remind us of the dangers and vulnerabilities as a result of global warming. This phenomenon leads to changes in weather patterns will surely bring natural impacts that can’t be determined. Climate change is also the cause of disaster vulnerability mapping needs to sharpen by incorporating the impact of climate change as factors of vulnerability.

Third, analysis of vulnerabilities in the region division plans. Disaster in Wasior increasingly emphasized the importance of vulnerability analysis in assessing the readiness of regional divisions. With a pattern of catastrophic events that can never be predicted, an indicator of an area facing disaster preparedness is not only limited to the availability of facilities and physical infrastructure, but also social infrastructure and governance.

Fourth, corruption and government accountability. Disasters such as floods that hit Wasior shows the importance of local government leadership in leading the emergency response that occurred in its territory. The problem, specifically in Wasior, disaster occurs while the head of the area involved cases of corruption.

These four factors are inter-related and affect the catastrophic events that occurred in Wasior. Can you imagine if all four of these factors occur at the same time? As we know, the conditions of vulnerability that is high enough, we can’t avoid ourselves from disaster. The only thing that can be done is to adapt the environment to be responsive to the various disasters that befell.

It is the obligation of governments to formulate guidelines for disaster risk reduction. Which, these guidelines should not only consist of preparing the physical facilities and infrastructure but must also be accompanied by empowerment of the community.

We can no longer bet the lives of the people who actually already loaded with various burdens in their life.


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