Community Has a Vital Role to Play In Disaster Mitigation Efforts: BNPB

February 20, 2010 Jakarta Globe

The National Disaster Management Agency launched its 2010-14 plans for disaster risk reduction on Friday, stressing that the public needed to be more aware of disaster relief and be prepared.

“Most people remain unaware of disaster mitigation and preparation, as they will only do something such as evacuate once a disaster has already happened. This is a habit that we want to change,” said Syamsul Maarif, the head of the agency, also known as BNPB.

Syamsul said that when the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) issued warnings of torrential downpours, people should clean out their drains. In flood-prone areas, they should be prepared to seek refuge in safer areas.

“Most people fail to respond to official warnings, thus the effects of a disaster become worse,” he said.

Syamsul said that the maps and the plans were drawn up in an attempt to tackle disasters in a more comprehensive manner, adding that they should be used as a reference because they were in line with the 2010-14 Medium Term National Development Plan (RPJM).

“[The maps and plans are] one of the 11 priorities in the RPJM as Indonesia is a disaster-prone country,” he said.

“We want people throughout the country to use these maps and plans in their area in order to create a safer community by reducing the risks of disasters,” he said, adding that it was the responsibility of district officials to disseminate copies of the materials.

The plans contain information indicating which areas of the archipelago are prone to tsunamis, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

According to a 2007 law on disaster mitigation, every region must have its own disaster-risk mapping. However, Syamsul said, until now only a few areas had such data. Jember district in East Java and Central Java are two of those who have drawn up maps.

In many cases, he said, regions were unable to do the mapping because they lacked the information and resources to do so.

“We are encouraging everybody to participate in disaster-risk reduction. That is the key to having a safer community,” he said.

According to the disaster plans, 29 provinces such as Aceh, North Sumatra, Jakarta, West Java and Bali are prone to flooding. They also show 18 provinces, including Aceh, North Sumatra, Banten, Yogyakarta and Maluku as being vulnerable to tsunamis.

The BNPB data indicates that there are 23 earthquake-prone provinces, including Aceh, West Sumatra, West Java, East Java, Bali, West Papua, and Papua.

The agency also mapped 17 provinces at risk of volcanic eruptions such as Aceh, North Sumatra, South Sumatra, Central Java and North Sulawesi.

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