TORRENTIAL rain and flooding that swept across the Indonesian capital of Jakarta has threatened to dampen its Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s chances of being re-elected.
Basuki, who is running for a second term while facing blasphemy allegations, was made to apologise to the flood victims in the capital this week and pledged to continue a flood mitigation project to prevent it from happening again.
According to the Straits Times, Basuki also ordered aid to be sent to the victims who were evacuated due to the floods.
“I apologise to Jakarta residents, especially the elderly and children. We understand it is hard to go through this,” Basuki was quoted as saying. “But I guarantee that the floodwater will recede fast.”
On Tuesday, many schools were shut and residents forced to be evacuated after heavy rainfall in Jakarta led to widespread flooding, leaving thousands of homes and roads inundated.
After a hard-fought campaign to resolve Jakarta’s enduring flood problem, Basuki’s hope for a second term hinges on how his administration resolves the crisis.
Anies Baswedan, the former education minister who is running for governor, said the floods show the ineffectiveness of Basuki’s plan.
However, Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, Basuki’s running mate, maintained that the plan would succeed in five years if Jakarta’s rivers were cleaned up under the administration.
“If we are consistent in normalising the rivers, Jakarta would be free of floods,” he said. “Although the normalisation process has yet to be completed, the number of flood-prone areas in the capital has been reduced significantly.”
Over the last few years, the administration of Basuki and his predecessor Joko Widodo, who is now president, had embarked on a massive campaign to clean up the Ciliwung, the city’s biggest river.
Basuki relocated illegal settlements along its banks in a bid to allow the river to flow.
However, Basuki’s opponents are still expected to politise the crisis and criticise his food prevention strategy, according to the Straits Times.
According to Jakarta’s Sanitation Department, about 4,000 city workers retrieve trash from 13 rivers and hundreds of canals zig-zagging through the city of 10 million people.
Even though there has been a reduction in surface trash on the Ciliwung, an environmentalist in December said better enforcement of existing laws against polluters was needed to improve water quality.
The Ciliwung, which runs more than 100km (60 miles) from its source in West Java to Jakarta bay, has played an important role in the livelihood of the city since the 17th century.
Under the governorship of Basuki and his predecessor Joko Widodo, who is now President, the Jakarta administration has cleaned up the city’s biggest river, the Ciliwung.
Additional reporting by Reuters