Uncovering Links Between Deforestation and Massive Flooding in West Kalimantan

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On 29th November 2021, the Teraju Foundation in cooperation with Aidenvironment organised an online panel program that posed the question: “How is massive flooding in West Kalimantan linked to deforestation?” The event was a response to the much-needed dialogue on the cause, impact and prospective solutions to the massive flood in West Kalimantan that occurred in early November 2021.

The flood was noted as the worst in recent years. It affected over 100,000 people and submerged three regencies and over a dozen sub-districts in the Kapuas water catchment area in West Kalimantan for several weeks. Lives of residents were derailed as floodwaters turned roads into canals for over four weeks since flooding started. Media reported more than 35.000 houses under water and thousands of villagers relocated to evacuation areas. The governor of Kalimantan said the damage to the Kapuas water catchment, part of Indonesia’s largest river system, has reached at least 70% of the watershed.

The event aimed to provide a space for residents of the region to express how they have been affected by the flood disaster and discuss systemic factors that led to it. People from Sintang and Sekadau, two of the affected districts, represented thousands of other residents who have most felt the impact of the extreme flood events.

Key topics explored during the discussion include:

  1. The role of agricultural expansion in natural disasters – Most of the area around the Kapuas water catchment have been transformed into monoculture plantations – mainly palm oil – and industrial tree plantations concessions;
  2. Land use change and rainfall patterns – The major change in land use within the area coupled with climate change contributes to more frequent rainy seasons;
  3. Topography as a factor – The geography of Sintang allows water to be retained for a brief period, resulting in floods during heavy rainfall.
Event poster featuring residents and civil society leaders
Event poster featuring residents and civil society leaders.

The event served as an initial discussion to find a common ground in people’s direct experience of climate disasters, while raising understanding and awareness of its causes.  To follow up, Teraju Foundation announced a plan to bring the discussion to a bigger platform. This upcoming discussion will seek suggestions on how to evaluate all plantations and industrial tree concessions permits in West Kalimantan to prevent another big disaster in the coming years.

Join the discussion and our path to finding solutions. Reach out to Okita Miraningrum to find out more.

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