"Floods in Aceh due to climate change"
And suddenly, the water came in… After days of heavy rains and strong winds, flash floods hit three areas in Takengon, Central Aceh region in Indonesia on May 13th. The floods did cause a lot of material damage. How could this happen?
“They are the evidence of increasingly severe environmental damage”, explains Suhaimi Hamid, head of the Krueng Peusangan Watershed Forum. “These flash floods are a clear indication that our environment has been seriously damaged. Irresponsible behaviour of human nowadays makes the impact of environmental damage even more severe.”
The province of Aceh must prepare itself for the increasing threat of natural disasters such as floods and landslides. This is especially due to climate change and rising temperatures that trigger extreme weather, according to Suhaimi. “Climate change is now happening. Extreme weather such as high rainfall will worsen the impact of forest destruction that is caused by illegal logging and forest encroachment.”
High rainfall and rising sea levels
A recently released study conducted by the SRJS programme predicted an increase in rainfall in northern Sumatra (including Aceh) by 24% during the wet season of the year. This will increase water levels in rivers, flooding inland and coastal areas. “Therefore, we need to increase protection of areas along river basins and also forest areas, so that erosion and landslides can be reduced”, Suhaimi stated.
As a result of rising global temperatures, Aceh will also experience the threat of rising sea levels that could threaten coastal areas, especially in the eastern part. This can have severe consequences for local food security and protection of coastal areas, aquaculture and mangrove forests. The communities must be prepared as soon as possible.
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Local pictures from Aceh
All images © WWF Indonesia
Women are most vulnerable
While communities are experiencing the impact of climate change, women are considered the most vulnerable. Suraiya Kamaruzzaman, head of the local organisation Balai Syura Ureung Inong Aceh, confirms this. “The impact of climate change, such as flooding and drought, gives more loads to women as they are in charge of family’s domestic needs. Traditionally, women have to ensure the availability of water and food for the families. They will spend hours to collect water in some cases. Disasters in the past also showed an increase in violence.”
Take care of our forests
Suhaimi Hamid reminded all parties not to worsen the condition by allowing forest destruction. The existing forest forms a natural barrier for the effects of climate change happening. “We also have to take care of our mangroves forest, such as in East Aceh, Langsa and Aceh Tamiang, to reduce the impacts of climate change”, he added.
“We express our sincere sympathies for this incident. Hopefully the flash flood disaster in Takengon, Central Aceh will trigger change, in the government, business and the whole community. We simply must restore the function of our forests and watersheds.”
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