Bogor and Jakarta floods a wake-up call for water management action

As heavy downpours in Bogor, West Java, threaten deadly and devastating floods in the nation’s capital of Jakarta, Indonesia again confronts the challenges of urban water management.

“The causes of damaging flooding are manifold”, says Monash University’s Dr Christian Urich, “including outdated and repurposed drainage infrastructure, rapid urbanisation leading to more sealed surfaces, and climate change delivering more intense rainfalls”.

“For studies in Australia and other Melbourne catchments, we have shown that the combined effect of urbanisation and climate change is increasing the flood risk significantly,” Dr Urich says.

Researchers from Universitas Indonesia, Institut Pertanian Bogor and Monash University, as part of the Australia-Indonesia Centre’s Urban Water Cluster, are working with communities, industry and government in Bogor, Cibinong and Sentul City, to develop strategies that aim to mitigate the impact of heavy rain and prevent damaging flooding, contamination and water waste.

“Our research has noted that existing infrastructure water infrastructure around Bogor, build by the Dutch for irrigation, is now used for drainage. This old infrastructure cannot cope with the increased runoff”, says Dr Urich.

Dr Urich suggests more sensitive land use planning, and building community resilience to minimise flood impact, are strategies that research shows can benefit communities at the local level.

The AIC-funded collaboration is addressing how green spaces, or rain gardens in urban areas, can be introduced to restore natural runoff and filter the rain water to remove contaminants.  The filtered water flowing into river systems improves the ecological health of the environment and also provides a clean water source for communities. Additionally health benefits of providing cooler, green spaces and recreational areas support community resilience to climate change.

“For big floods we will still need some traditional infrastructure but it is how those can be combined with localised green technologies that will achieve multiple benefits,” he says.

“We should change our paradigm to think from different point of views,” says Universitas Indonesia’s Dr Dwinanti Rika Marthanty. “People in Bogor need not sacrifice their land for the sake of conserving upstream Ciliwung [River] but should get financial support from the Jakarta local government to conserve their lands.”

Monash University’s Dr Jane Holden says, “governments, industry, academia and communities need to work together to create world-leading urban water solutions in Indonesia.”  To create a knowledge sharing and learning environment an AIC Urban Water Learning Alliance was established in 2017, to connect community water champions, and experts in research, water regulation and management, urban planning and development, to work on delivering holistic sustainable urban water solutions, together.