Floods, earthquakes, climate change and bird flu – nothing really new about Indonesia and yet they remain deadly lingering problems.
Indonesia is losing tons of crop production each year and its fish stock is dwindling as a result of global warming, a UN report warned. Millions of poor Indonesians will suffer loss of livelihoods, undermining the government's efforts to fight poverty, the report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said. Shifting weather patterns have made it increasingly difficult for Indonesian farmers to decide when to plant their crops, and erratic droughts and rainfall have led to crop failures, the report said.
The report quoted a study by a local research institute which said that Indonesia had lost 300,000 tons of crop production every year between 1992-2000, three times the annual loss in the previous decade. Indonesia's 40 million poor, including farmers and fishermen, will be the worst affected due to threats including rising sea levels, prolonged droughts and tropical cyclones, the report said.
"No one can escape from climate change. But the effects will be felt more acutely by the poorest people, who are living in the most marginal areas that are vulnerable to drought, for example, or to floods and landslide," the report said. "Already one of the world's most disaster-prone countries, Indonesia faces increased exposure to droughts, floods and storms as well as disruption in agricultural production," the UNDP said in a press statement.
Indonesian politicians are also quick to point a finger at climate change for the floods in Jakarta now. Environment minister has blamed global warming for floods in some parts of Jakarta which forced thousands of people to flee their homes and cut off a highway leading to the airport.
Meanwhile, aside from such environmental woes, a strong earthquake struck off Indonesia's Sumatra island, according to the country's Meteorological agency. The quake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale rocked Mukomuko district in Bengkulu province on Sumatra island but there was no reports of casualties and material damages. The quake's epicenter lies 2.82 degrees South Latitude and 101.04 degrees East Longitude, 55 km under the sea bed and 28 km southwest of Mukomuko district, said the agency.
Another sitting time bomb in Indonesia and for the region is the bird flu. Indonesia will not share bird flu virus samples unless richer countries agree to give developing nations control over their use and access to cheap vaccines, a spokeswoman from the nation's health ministry said. Health officials from around the world failed to reach an agreement on a new virus sharing system at talks hosted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva.
Indonesia, the nation worst hit by bird flu with 91 human deaths, has held back its virus samples since August 2007. Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari insisted on "equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of viruses" at the meeting. "Talks hit a deadlock because the health minister was relentless in pushing for a 'material transfer agreement' for each virus sample, but not everyone agreed to that," ministry spokeswoman Lily Sulistiowati says. "We hope that negotiations will continue." Jakarta has shared just two specimens in 2007, both from Indonesian women who died in the popular tourist resort of Bali in August, according to the WHO. (29 November 2007)
Indonesia losing crops and fish stocks to global warming (Reuters, 27 November 2007)
Indonesia fights for rights to bird flu samples (New Scientist, 26 November 2007)
Strong earthquake strikes Indonesia (People's Daily, 25 November 2007)
Rising seas inundate Jakarta (Straits Times, 29 November 2007)