Indonesia' government has set an emergency drought alert status in seven provinces and 55 regencies until Monday - Photo: Special.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – Indonesia is among the top 10 countries in the Asia Pacific region with the potential to suffer losses due to drought and natural disasters. Potential losses that could reach US$50 billion put Indonesia in the 4th position on the list, according to the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2019 released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Jakarta, Friday (08/30).

The report titled, ‘Disaster Riskscape Across Asia-Pacific: Pathways for Resilience, Inclusion, and Empowerment, noted Indonesia’s position was just below India, Japan, and China, which warns that economic losses could quadruple as a result of “the new climate reality,” referring to the unprecedented “relentless sequence of natural disasters” in the region.

The report illustrates the linkages between disasters and inequality and poverty, with each “feeding on the other and leading to a vicious downward cycle.” It assesses the scale of losses across the disaster “riskscape,” and estimates the amounts that countries would need to invest to outpace the growth of disaster risk.

In 2018, according to the report, almost half of natural disaster events worldwide occurred in the Asia-Pacific region, including eight out of the ten deadliest. Annual economic losses for the region are approximately $675 billion, or around 2.4 percent of the region’s GDP, of which $405 billion are drought-related agricultural losses.

Vulnerable and marginalized communities are the hardest hit by disasters in the region. The report projects that unmitigated disaster risk could double the number of those living in poverty by 2030 to 123 million.

The report includes, for the first time, the costs of slow-onset disasters, particularly drought, which leads to a quadrupling of annual economic losses compared to previous estimates.

The report calls for “transformational change” and for addressing social policies and disaster resilience in an integrated manner, whereby government agencies and ministries collaborate and align their plans to ensure that it can be achieved across sectors.

To anticipate the loss, Minister of National Development Planning Bambang Brodjonegoro stated that a number of mitigation efforts such as the early warning system and improvement of the irrigation system will be the focus of the government to prevent major losses due to natural disasters and drought. His party would intensify the development and maintenance of irrigation networks in Indonesia. This will mainly be done in agricultural areas that require optimal irrigation.

“The irrigation system is very vital to exist not during the rainy season, but when drought hits. We will optimize the primary, secondary and tertiary irrigation networks, especially tertiary ones because they are directly adjacent to the community,” he explained.

Besides, the government will also continue to improve the early warning system in disaster-prone areas. The tool and warning system will be updated and tested so that the level of reliability is high.

Brodjonegoro added that handling natural disasters at this time could not be done on an ad hoc basis. Handling that focuses on emergency response or recovery is considered to be no longer suitable for the condition of an increasingly developed country.

Drought has occurred in seven provinces in Indonesia, with 79 details consisting of 1,969 villages in 556 districts, said National Welfare Disaster Management Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo earlier.

He revealed the highest drought potential occurred in West Java, East Java, Central Java, DI Yogyakarta, Bali, West Nusa Tenggara, and East Nusa Tenggara until October 2019.

“In some areas that are drought up to 60 days will use artificial rain. The agency is also carrying out water-saving campaigns,” he adds.

Meanwhile, Eko Putro Sandjojo, the Minister of Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration said the potential loss resulted in the draining of 3.7 hectares of agricultural land in some areas. Therefore, the ministry asked the agency to use Assessment and Application Technologies to evaluate artificial rain on agricultural land.

President Joko Widodo had also previously asked his ministers to anticipate the effects of the drought. He noted, based on data from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, it was seen that the dry season would continue until October this year.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com