Floods in South Kalimantan Used By NGOs to Blame Palm Oil
Early in 2021, natural disasters have occurred in several regions in Indonesia. La Nina climate anomaly, indicated by the high intensity of rainfall causes floods. The Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) estimates that the peak of La Nina occurs in the January-March period and causes heavy rains followed by lightning, so this condition has the potential for flooding in the medium to high category.
In January 2021, floods have occurred in Aceh until Papua. One of the flood disasters that quite get the attention of the Indonesian was the flood in South Kalimantan. After more than 50 years, big scale floods have just returned to South Kalimantan due to the high rainfall for 10 consecutive days, causing the Barito River to overflow. That river can accommodate 230 million cubic meters, but due to the high rainfall, the amount of water flow reaches 2.1 billion cubic meters, so that it is not accommodated in Barito River and overflows into 11 districts/cities.
In the midst of the busyness of people who are evacuating, the government is trying to handle this flood and volunteers are distributing aid from the joint venture of all Indonesian people for victims, however it is very unfortunate that the Walhi NGO actually gave a public statement that had the potential to cause aproar by stating that oil palm plantations were the driver of flooding in South Kalimantan.
Walhi’s statement made oil palm farmers furious. One of the them who came to speak was Samsul Bahri, who said that Walhi should not look for a “stage” in the middle of a disaster because his accusation was not based on scientific studies. A similar argument was also conveyed by the Chairperson of Apkasindo, Gulat ME Manurung, who also highlighted Walhi’s argument by comparing the floods that occurred in Jakarta which always floods every year, even though there was no oil palm plantations. It means that allegations of oil palm plantations causing flooding were baseless accusations.
The accusations made by Walhi or other anti-palm oil parties that linking development of oil palm plantation was considered as driver deforestation, so that triggered the flood disaster in South Kalimantan are also inconsistent with facts and historical. The origin of the development of oil palm plantations in Kalimantan by utilizing scrub and abandoned land ex-logging activities was mostly carried out during the Orde Baru era. This shows the fact that the presence of oil palm plantations actually rehabilitating the ecology, economy, and social of the communities in the ex-logging concession areas in Kalimantan.
In addition, oil palm plants also have a massive, broad, and deep fiber root system, so that they can form to natural biopores have the ability to hold and absorb water. The ability of natural biopores on oil palm plants have functions to prevent water run-off and flood and landslide disasters.
In line with the facts that are summarized by PASPI, Dr.Ir. Arief Rahmad Maulana Akbar, M.Si., Deputy Dean of the Academic of Faculty of Agriculture, Lambung Mangkurat University, also stated that the accusation that oil palm causes flooding in South Kalimantan is baseless. This is due to the location of the initial flooding area in Pengaron and Banjar Regency which was flooded at the earliest about almost a month ago and in there did not have oil palm plantations but there was an ex-mining and abandoned lake.
In addition, a large flood area in Barabai,and Hulu Sungai Selatan District side by side with PT Adaro’s mine, and until now there are no oil palm plantations in these areas. This statement shows that flooding was occurred in several areas of South Kalimantan is closely related to mining sector or ex-mining areas.
Indonesian government through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has also confirmed that the cause of flooding in South Kalimantan is high rainfall. Drainage basin in Barito River unable to accommodate the increase in water volume. In addition, other flood-causing factors is profile and ecological infrastructure in South Kalimantan with flat areas and low elevations causes the area become water accumulated with a drainage system unable to drain large volumes of water. Moreover, the large number of mining activities has also caused silting of rivers, so it is unable to accommodate a large volume of water discharge and has the potential to causing big floods as is currently happening. These facts also counter Walhi’s accusations.
The factor of high rainfall as a form of climate anomaly that causes flooding in South Kalimantan and other parts of Indonesia as well as in various countries in the world is a impact of global climate change. The climate change occurs around the world is due to global warming. GHG emissions are the cause of global warming and the largest source of GHG emissions comes from fossil energy produced by main emitter countries such as China, the United States, the European Union, and India. This means that flood disaster occurrs in South Kalimantan has victims of global climate change, not due to oil palm plantations.
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