Disaster Risk Reduction

On October 26th 2010, Yogyakarta was plagued by a series of extremely damaging eruptions. Mount Merapi–one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world–threw debris, stones, sand, and other volcanic materials at the surrounding villages.

The Indonesian government provides assistance to disaster survivors. The general philosophy of providing assistance is to promote a collaborative effort to find the best and most sustainable solution. The Department of General Affairs of Indonesia created Rekompak as a more specialized body to take a regional approach to solving reconstruction problems. Rekompak has been involved in the relief programs of many regional disasters such as the Aceh Tsunami of 2004, and the earthquake in Yogyakarta of 2008. Rekompak’s position is that of a “helper to a community”; they assist people in reconstructing their lives and planning their futures. Rekompak provides people with advice on how they should proceed, but they do not force them to take certain action (Interview with Wijayanto, July 2014). The national government of Indonesia placed the Merapi DRR program in Rekompak’s hands.

At Merapi, the Indonesian government mandated that the community within the red-zone (20 km from the summit) move to a location of lower elevation. The Merapi eruptions survivors who did not wish to move out of the red-zone were not eligible for governmental assistance. It is easy to speculate on the reasons for which the people did not move. However, the less intuitive reason has important implications: the survivors have spiritual connections to their land on Merapi. Their beliefs hold that Merapi is a holy place where gods and godesses live. Therefore, even if an eruption were to occur, the loyal locals would remain unharmed. Rekompak assisted the Merapi eruptions survivors who were willing to abandon their land in finding new real estate, and paid for the acquisition of it. Once Rekompak found the land, the survivors were responsible for partitioning it equitably among the people of the community. Once it was time to build, Rekompak assisted in finding contractors and other construction workers to do the job, but the choice of whom they would hire was ultimately given to the Merapi eruptions survivors. Likewise, when it came to the materials and other logistical decisions, the people were responsible for making them.

Rekompak’s hands-off way of guiding people is problematic because it demands unfair participation of them. The Merapi eruptions survivors lost everything and then were asked to reconstruct their villages in a new place with no knowledge of how to do it. This placed a huge burden on the people, as the institutional memory that is necessary for a project of this magnitude does not exist. IDEA conducted a social audit to assess the legitimacy and success of the program a couple of years after the DRR program had been initiated.

In July of 2014, my internship with IDEA led me to assess the DRR program with IDEA’s supervision, specifically analyzing the progress that had been made in augmenting the DRR program since IDEA’s first social audit.