Indonesian government urged to declare national disaster for extreme weather

A fishermen’s association and an environmental watchdog are calling on the government to officially recognize extreme weather events as national disasters in the hope that mitigation efforts will lower the impacts of such incidents.

extreme-seas

The Indonesian Traditional Fishermen Association (KNTI) and the Indonesian Forum for the Environment’s (Walhi) West Java chapter said that an emergency status was crucial to minimize losses suffered by fishermen who would otherwise fall into poverty.

Strong winds and huge waves of up to 2 meters off the southern coast of West Java have reportedly prevented fishermen from going to sea.

Their fishing days have been reduced from around 220 to only 120 days each year.

The situation is believed to affect not only the fishermen’s livelihoods, but also fish production.

“Around 70 percent of our fishermen are traditional fishermen who use boats of under 5 tons. It would be difficult for them to survive without assistance,” Walhi’s West Java advocacy manager Nurdin Suhendar said in Bandung in Monday.

The implementation of a national disaster status, he said, would prompt the government to take emergency and disaster-mitigation measures to minimize the impacts of extreme weather on fishermen.

“When extreme weather is recognized as a national disaster, the government has to carry out mitigation efforts by establishing a weather information system for traditional fishermen,” he said.

The Indonesian Fishermen Association’s Tasikmalaya chapter head, Dedi Mulyadi, said that extreme weather has led to fishermen losing the ability to use traditional fishing methods, such as observing the position of stars and the moon and wind direction.

“The position of the stars seems good, but as we sail out to sea the waves become high,” he said.

“In the middle of the month, during a full moon, we usually avoid fishing. But now we have to avoid fishing almost every day due to uncertain weather.”

Around 600 fishermen have reportedly abandoned the trade to become farm-hands or motorcycle taxi drivers as they could not live off the government’s 14 tons of rice assistance. Some left their villages to become construction workers in the cities.

Dedi said the boats have been grounded for a month, adding that the weather was fine for only two days last week, but the catches remained small, at around a ton compared to 14 tons on a normal day.

“At times the waves only rise up to 1.5 meters, but the wind is very strong and could cause the boat to overturn,” Dedi said.

Nurdin said a statement has been submitted to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to be used as an instrument of protection for fishermen.

Source: The Jakarta Post

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