EDITORIAL: Finding the right panacea

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - As Indonesia is prone to natural disaster, the main problem to anticipate it may rest with the people as they tend to ignore or underestimate the obvious threats of disasters.

It is destiny that Indonesia lies in a menacing geographical location; it is surrounded by three tectonic plates, Indo-Australian, Eurasian and Pacific, and sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, characterized by numerous active volcanoes. As a consequence, Indonesia is prone to natural disasters like tectonic and volcanic earthquakes, tsunamis, as well as man-made disasters.

The country endured 2,564 disasters last year, including earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, land liquefaction and landslides, which left 3,300 people dead, more than 1,400 missing and 21,000 others injured.

The trend does not seem to show any signs of abating in 2019, as in the first three months of the year, 438 people died, nearly three times the figure in same period last year, when 152 people lost their lives due to disasters, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) reported.

Many of the disasters, particularly volcanic earthquakes, are part of a cycle, which means they would erupt again after several hundred or thousands of years. It is true that earthquakes are not preventable, but in view of their cyclical characteristics, we can always anticipate them in advance so that their impacts could be prevented or at least mitigated.

As the Special Report in today’s paper reveals, despite the imminent risks of disaster, the country is more focused on post-disaster than risk-prevention measures as stipulated in the 2007 law on disaster management. Financial constraints have been frequently said to impede efforts to prevent and mitigate disasters.

However, the main problem may rest with the Indonesian people themselves, as they tend to ignore or underestimate the obvious threats of disasters. Part of the blame should also go to continuing environmental degradation, which has triggered many non-natural disasters. Worse, the law is not strictly enforced against parties and business entities that contribute to environmental damages.

It is perhaps high time for the nation to change the way it views and understands disasters — both natural and man-made — and for all of us to begin to switch our perspective from post-disaster efforts to risk-prevention measures.

Such a paradigm shift is expected to not only reduce the risks and impacts of natural disasters, but also significantly ease the burden of the state budget in post-disaster efforts.

Disaster risk reduction has become a global commitment, and as BNPB head Doni Monardo stated in last week’s Global Platform in Geneva, concerted efforts involving the government, public figures, private sector, academics and civil society groups are key.

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