Indonesia is located along the Pacific Ring of Fire and faces many natural threats including earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, flooding, and droughts. The country records upwards of 3,000 natural disasters across the country in any given year. On average, 90% or more of these events are hydro-meteorological (e.g., storms, tornadoes, and floods); however, the remainder of events – earthquakes and tsunamis – are usually more deadly and more damaging. In any given decade, the country can suffer disaster events that cost thousands of lives and displace tens of thousands of people while the economic losses can total US$3 billion annually.
The key event that formed the Indonesian government’s present approach to disasters was the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that wreaked havoc in the country’s western regions. Since then, the country has reformed its laws, policies, and institutions to better manage disaster risk and management. The more robust disaster management capabilities were reflected in the response to the September 2018 Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami, in which Indonesia proactively managed foreign responders, with the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) playing a notable role. The 2007 disaster management law laid the foundations for the National Disaster Management Agency (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana, BNPB), which is the country’s central governing body for all disaster-related activities. It coordinates preparedness, prevention, mitigation, and response, and it directs and manages national disaster risk reduction (DRR) and disaster risk mitigation (DRM) efforts.
The DRR and DRM facets of BNPB’s responsibilities are increasingly linked into the country’s institutional efforts to confront climate change, to which Indonesia is among the world’s most vulnerable countries. In October 2017, the government announced an initiative aimed at incorporating climate action into the development agenda, and there are specific policies for adapting farming to climate change, optimal use of land, water, and natural resources, conserving rainwater, developing early warning systems for extreme weather events, protecting coastal zone, making infrastructure more resilient, and better urban planning. The current 20-year development plan, Rencana Pembangunan Jangka Panjang Nasional (RPJPN), targets the eradication of illegal logging, fishing, and mining, and it increases participation of local people in forest management. It also aims to increase vulnerable communities’ resilience to climate change impacts. A 2019 government report found that the RPJPN’s “low carbon” development pathway could drive a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 6% annually until 2045 and cut emissions by 43% by 2030.
Of course, the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic has disrupted some of these plans. Within a few months of the first cases in the country, the pandemic reversed some hard-won advances in well-being, with poverty, malnutrition, and hunger rising fast. Indonesia will face years of competition for resources and strained budgets as the government and private sector seek to reduce poverty, increase food security, and rebuild education and health care even as it also tries to fund the construction and expansion of resilient infrastructure to vulnerable areas.
As an archipelagic state that stretches 5,100 kilometers (3,200 miles) east to west and comprises 17,500 islands, boosting connectivity among the country’s geographically remote communities is a perennial challenge that can only partially be overcome by modern communications. Thus, the extension of transport, communication, and energy infrastructure and service underpins any extension of health and education service and any boost in economic productivity in the private sector.