Must Java Have No Forests?
Nature Preserves and
Human Population Pressures
THE INDONESIAN HEADS of twenty different environmental groups, including national and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), began to filter into the conference room at the offices of the Indonesia Environment Forum in Jakarta to begin a planning meeting on responding to the recent Jakarta floods. Beginning in mid-February 2007, the rivers and streams around the capital city of Indonesia, swollen with monsoon rains, overflowed their banks and inundated streets and homes in low-lying districts throughout large portions of greater Jakarta— home to 11 million people. The floodwaters in many places rose more than two meters (over six feet). The first wave of flooding crested on the third day and by the eighth day had receded from most parts of the city. As the rains continued past the end of February, however, the flooding returned in new waves; some parts of the city suffered many waves. Each wave lasted for days.
Jakarta has a history of flooding on a five-year average. The flood of 2002 had been widely considered the worst flood in recorded history, killing twenty-five. But there was general consensus five years later that the 2007 floods were the worst in three centuries, drowning fifty-four people. The floodwaters were full of mud, snakes, and dead animals, from rats to chickens. They also contained petroleum products, chemicals, and other pollutants from factories, businesses, and homes, not to mention thousands of tons of rotting garbage. Many hundreds of persons sickened by the flood