Series of Writing on Disaster Risk Reduction Learning Process in Sangihe, North Celebes, Indonesia (Part 2):
Beautiful but dangerous is the right adage to portray the face of Kepulauan Sangihe’s regency with a total area of 736. 98 square kilometers. Behind its beautiful landscape of many green hills, the archipelago consisted of 15 sub-districts (covering 145 villages and 22 kelurahan) is very prone to flooding and landslides, especially after continuous rain. The incident of heavy flood followed by landslides happened in 2001,2003, 2004, 2005, and the greatest one in 2007. The landslides in 2007 took place on January 9-14, claimed the death of 33 people, 2 people were missing, 304 houses were completely destroyed or gone and 172 houses severely destroyed, 5.351 people (1.446 households) had to be evacuated. The same disaster occurred in December 28, 2008 and January 16, 2009, forced more than 3,000 people fled to evacuation centers. Even though the events in 2008 and 2009 did not result in any casualties, but the disaster had caused trauma for majority of the villagers.
The archipelago is amazingly beautiful, facing wide and Blue Ocean, located on the edges of Pacific, Eurasian, and Indo-Australian tectonic place make it the sites of frequent seismic activities; the sideways movement between the plates would cause the raising of the sea bed and triggering 10 to 25 meters high of tsunami waves.
Earthquake often haunted the inhabitants of this archipelago, a total of 130, 449 people. The latest one was recorded on January 21, 2007; 6.4 at the Richter scale, which also felt by most part of North Celebes’ province. The earthquake caused severe panic, especially in Talaud and Sitaro island. The villagers scattered to various directions, trying to save their lives. Without a clear evacuation route, they were frightened when instruction to go to higher place was announced, to anticipate the tsunami waves.
Another beautiful side of the archipelago is an active volcano named Gunung Awu. Looking at the history, the volcano poses a major threat for the people of Sangihe. The eruption in 1711 had caused 3,000 people injured. The Volcanology Survey Indonesia – the popular name for Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation listed Gunung Awu as one among its 150 active volcanoes. The eruption in 1966 had caused 40,000 people evacuated and around 18,000 people had to stay in evacuation centers for months after the eruption in 2004.
Adding into the list of potential disasters is coastal erosion due to the lost of mangrove. Also, drought if the climate extremely changes. This fragility is more severe because the region does not produce food; they produce copra, sago and cocoa instead. Food ought to be fulfilled from other region, which adding transportation into the current problem. It takes 10 hours long to reach Sangihe from Kota Manado’ harbor in South Celebes using ship. Therefore, in the event of disasters, the inhabitants would face multi dimensional challenges if proper preparation were not in place.
The long list of fragilities has placed the regency of Kepulauan Sangihe the first in term of the most vulnerable region in the province of North Celebes. In conclusion, the region had become mini supermarket of disaster in Indonesia: it is prone to tsunami, earthquake, flooding, landslides, tornado, and volcano eruption. The analysis came from the result of disaster assessment conducted by a NGO named Kelola based in North Celebes. Unfortunately, a disaster risk reduction plan is not yet in place.
Both the people and the government of Sangihe Island had to undergo a very long process to understand the vulnerability of the area they are living in. The event of disasters indeed did not do them any favor to learn the lesson. This is the result from lack of awareness about living with disasters; some precautions could be taken to reduce the risk, therefore building safer and more resilient communities.
Their first encounter with disaster risk reduction was through the program carried out by some NGOs. Kelola introduced the program in 2008 to 14 villages from 7 sub-districts; all were remote and poor as well as very vulnerable to disaster. Two villages, Bahu and Raku had become role models of safer and more resilient communities today. During the program, the people were invited to understand the fragility of their villages. The program had involved adults and students from 23 schools in the area. It also involved housewives, community leaders, local governments, teachers, and youth in the process of raising awareness about disaster risk reduction.
They identified their vulnerabilities into a map themselves; they used knowledge and local wisdoms obtained from the community leaders and the elderly to re-invent the meaning of living with disaster. They also made community action plan.
In Bahu for example, they built water pipe for the people living in Lindongan I, whom had difficulties to access the water. In Raku, they re-built the road with funding from PNPM Program. They also ensured that water resources would be safe if flooding occurred, which became an annual event. They realized that if the substance carried out by the flood polluted the water then the children and women would be the most vulnerable, due to their position to manage the households and to provide food security.
In the process, they were invited to decide assembly points and evacuation routes as well as to create a village-based disaster preparedness team. The try out for their preparedness and understanding was conducted in a drill specifically designed for their vulnerabilities.
Torang so siap?/ Are We Ready?
Their preparedness was tested again when the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics or BMKG warned about the possibility of tsunami waves triggered by a magnitude of 9.0 undersea megathrust earthquake in Japan (Great East Japan Earthquake) occurred on March 11, 2011. The people of Baku and Rahu took the warning seriously and directly coordinated the preparation to their disaster preparedness team. They patrolled to reach people living nearby the coastline, reminding them to get ready to face off the worst possibility. They stayed alert until past midnight, even after BMKG had lifted the warning. This was important because tsunami in Mentawai struck the area one hour after BMKG lifted the warning.
However, chaos in responding to the tsunami warning did take place, especially in Tahuna, the capital of the regency, and in Manado, the capital of the province. The mass tried to reach higher points in panic, without clear evacuation routes and coordination from the officials. We could imagine if the real tsunami did struck the area; giant wave reached inland very fast and swept away every thing.
“It turned out that the people were more prepared, soon after BMKG announced about the potential of tsunami in the TV, most of them runaway to higher place to save their life. Coordination to manage disaster preparedness, unfortunately, was late. Related government agencies were confused to perform their tasks, even though the right protocol to deal with such situation was already in place,” said Johanis EH Pilat, Chair of Forum Komunikasi dan Informasi Kebencanaan Sangihe (FKIKS).
FKIKS is an independent organization focuses on advocating for disaster policy in Kepulauan Sangihe’s regency. They have been working in the area before Disaster Risk Reduction Program was introduced in 2008. But back then, they focused more on raising people awareness about flood. Flooding and landslides took place in 2007, had encouraged him and friends to do something about it.
“What happened on March 11, 2011 had shown that related government agencies were not prepared to deal with the situation,” he elaborated further. Kepulauan Sangihe’s regency had experienced dealing with natural disaster; they now were equipped with Regional Agency for Disaster Management (BPBD).
“In fact, regional working unit (SKPD) was not ready, because there were no strict rules overriding,” he added. Therefore FKIKS advocated for the enactment of local regulation on disaster risk management. FKIKS along with Kelola had consistently encouraged the government of Kepulauan Sangihe to show their high commitment on disaster risk reduction. In 2009, we were succeeding to advocate for the creation of Regional Agency for Disaster Management (BPBD).
In responding to this, BPBD of Kepulauan Sangihe’s regency, Fransiscus Lukas acknowledged that his organization still have limitations to understand the process regarding the commitment of disaster risk reduction in the regency.
“We are a newborn baby, we still have a lot to learn. The development concept is yet not specifically focus on disaster (risk) reduction. We are facing structural problem that technically hampered our work, and adding to this, we are lack in term of knowledge and human resources,” explained Fransiskus.
He explained further that the budget allocated to his organization amounted to IDR 178 million only, which was used to pay for salary mostly; only IDR 39 million allocated to the capacity development of the staff. He couldn’t really do much to push for more meaningful disaster risk reduction program with such limited budget.
“Japan took years until they were ready. However, we are seriously working to ensure that disaster risk reduction would be integrated into local regulation, to ensure that the allocation of budget is sufficient so we could carry out the program at all level,” he further explained.
At this moment, the local regulation is under the review of Kepulauan Sangihe’s law bureau. FKIKS and Kelola have been actively invited all stakeholders to engage into public consultation to discuss the draft.
“We expect that the local regulation would be enacted this year. Kepulauan Sangihe’s City Council ought to enact the regulation soon and we don’t have to wait until the disaster comes,” Pilat concluded.
So, are we ready?
Inbox – The Profile of Kepulauan (Island) Sangihe’s Regency
The regency of Kepulauan Sangihe is an archipelago comprises of 105 islands (big/small): 26 islands are inhabited, while 79 islands are not inhabited. The islands are lined stretches from Bowongdeke in the south to Marore in the north – neighbored to Balut and Saranggani in the Philippines (South Mindanao). The total area of the regency is 736.98 square kilometers, which administratively divided into 15 sub-districts, 145 villages and 22 kelurahan.
The topography of the region is hilly and has steep slope, especially in Sangihe. The height varies from 2 until 1,500 meters above sea level. The land area amounts to 365.68 square kilometers (49,62%) while the mountainous area amounts to 371.30 square kilometers (50,38%).
Such topographical landscape has made this region prone to disasters. Out of 13 regencies in the Province of North Celebes, Sangihe is placed the most vulnerable to disasters. The sub-districts of Kendar, Tabukan Utara, Tahuna Barat and partly Tahuna are prone to Gunung Awu’s eruption. The sub-districts of Tamako (partly), Tabukan Utara, Tahuna and Tahuna Timur are prone to flooding and landslides. The coastal region of Sangihe is prone to coastal erosion, high tide and tsunami. The total forest, which now has significantly reduced to only 11% of the total area, and climate change, has made this region prone to other type of disaster.
The region is also considered poor, due to central government’ policies in the past that ignored the development of the regions bordering to Malaysia. As the result, structural poverty is widespread and had impacted on the weak competitiveness of local commodities and economic empowerment of the region.
The archipelago is far from the mainland, where the capital of the province is. It could be reached 10 hours by ship or 50 minutes by plane, which becomes another challenges in term of responding to the disaster or to bring in humanitarian aid. The region is prone to the following disasters: flooding, landslides, volcanic eruption, earthquake, tsunami, high tide, coastal erosion, windstorm, and drought. (Musfarayani/oxfam)