Harvest failures loom as floods wash out regions

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Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, Ganug Nugroho Adi and Suherdjoko

The Jakarta Post, Padang/Surakarta/Semarang | February 13 2016 | 3:18 PM

Farmers in Sumatra and Java are on the verge of another harvest failure as floods submerged thousands of hectares of farmland in the respective regions this week.

In South Solok regency, West Sumatra, floods triggered by heavy rains over the past several days have damaged at least 800 ha of rice fields across six districts due to mud accumulation.

“The figure, however, does not include the affected side crop areas,” said South Solok Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Editorial on Friday.

He also expressed concern over limited food supplies for local residents following the floods.

“Many local farmers were set to harvest their crops over the next two weeks. With everything in their field damaged, what shall these people eat next month?” said Editorial, adding that more than 1,500 local residents had fled the neighborhood due to the disaster.

In West Sumatra’s Limapuluh Kota regency, floods have submerged 2,490 ha of rice, corn and chili fields and, of the affected farmland, 4.5 ha is currently confirmed to have experienced crop failure.

“The failure is likely to cost local farmers around Rp 1 billion [US$74,100],” agriculture and horticulture agency head Aprizul Nazar said.

After a prolonged dry season, the rainy season finally arrived in many parts of the country in December and has intensified since then.

While last year’s extended dry season, caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, saw thousands of ha of farmland experience crop failure, a series of heavy downpours over recent weeks has created similar anxiety among farmers and local residents in the country’s flood-prone regions, including North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Riau, and Central Java.

In Riau, floods have hit three regencies: Kampar, Rokan Hulu and Kuantan Singingi. Leaders of the three regencies have declared an emergency response status, saying they were overwhelmed with anticipative measures.

Floods also occurred in Sukoharjo and Surakarta in Central Java following incessant rain from Wednesday to early Thursday. In Sukoharjo regency, hundreds of homes in Bondosari, Grogol, Mojolaban and Bulakrejo districts were engulfed.

The floods originated from secondary irrigation channels from the East Colo Dam, a tributary of the Bengawan Solo River, one of the country’s longest rivers, engulfing both hundreds of homes and at least 300 ha of rice fields.

“More than 200 homes were submerged by up to 1 meter of water. The BPBD, together with volunteers, TNI and police personnel were at hand to help residents,” Sukoharjo BPBD acting head Suprapto said.

Meanwhile in Magelang regency, a 3-meter-high cliff in Sidosari subdistrict, Salaman district, collapsed on Wednesday evening due to heavy rain, destroying two houses.

No fatality was reported as a result of the incident but the inhabitants were forced to evacuate.

In Grobogan regency, heavy rains caused the Lusi River to overflow and flooded residential compounds in Plendungan and Jetis for the whole of Thursday and Friday.

Meanwhile the Pekalongan municipal administration has prepared seven evacuation centers to accommodate people displaced by floods as an anticipatory measure considering the high intensity of rain across the region.

“We have also prepared temporary shelters in every subdistrict. The assembly site is the subdistrict hall, From here we will proceed to accommodate affected people at prepared shelters,” Pekalongan BPBD official Hengki Susilo Hadi said.