Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management has officially established River School (Sekolah Sungai) program in West Papua. River School is a disaster mitigation program for areas dedicated to protect people that live around river areas from water related disasters. Before West Papua, this program has also been established since three years ago in several regions in Indonesia such as Klaten and Yogyakarta.
River School is an ecosystem based approach to mitigate disasters that will involve three important actors—the government, the public and also private sector. As an informal school, River School will train the people on how to revitalize the condition of the rivers in West Papua and also how to keep them clean.
The Main Purpose of River School
West Papua has many rivers and the people also have a very strong connection with the rivers. Unfortunately, the rivers in West Papua today are mostly dirty and contaminated by industries’ waste. Not to mention that many people are not treating rivers with respects and even throw away their garbage there.
This is not only a huge environmental problem, but also can lead to water related disasters like flood and land slide. The government has made many efforts to prevent disasters and also to clean the rivers. Unfortunately, most of them went in vain because the programs don’t involve the public.
River School is the answer for that problem. This program is intended to raise awareness to the public on the importance of keeping the rivers clean. Most people don’t really care about the quality of the rivers because they think it has nothing to do with them. River School is an effort to change that point of view. The condition of the rivers in West Papua is not only about taking care of the environment. It is also a way to prevent disaster and if the people want to prevent floods and landslides in the future, they should actively participate in that program.
The establishment of River School was held in Remu River, Sorong. This location was chosen because the residents around Remu River are affected by flood every year due to Remu river overflowing. One of the main causes why the river overflows during heavy rain is because the river is filled by the people’s garbage.
The program will not only teach the people how to revitalize the rivers, but also encourage the people to volunteer to clean the rivers and also to spread the knowledge to the people around them. Rivers have so many functions that can benefit the people in West Papua, from irrigation to transportation. So, if there is something wrong with the rivers, it is the residents that will be affected the most. By giving knowledge about river revitalization as well as raising awareness about the importance of keeping the rivers clean, it is hoped that water related disasters in West Papua will be significantly reduced.
Mitigating Disaster and Protecting Rivers in West Papua
Even though the government has the responsibility to protect every aspect of the people’s life, according to the environment, the government cannot do this important task alone. It is the residents that come in contact with the river the most so participation from the public to protect the river is highly needed.
This is exactly what River School is all about. River can provide so many benefits for the people. But if it is not taken care well, river also can be a source of disaster for the people in West Papua. So, as an effort of mitigating disasters caused by water in West Papua, the people should work together with the government to protect the rivers in this province.
It is an undeniable fact that the rivers in West Papua have been contaminated due to irresponsible activities. If there is no action taken to solve this issue, it is the people that will be affected the most by the disasters. So, the government’s effort to bring River School to West Papua is definitely commendable.
Besides, River School is not only about mitigating disaster, it is about protecting the environment and to regain the original function of rivers. Rivers are supposed to be used for the benefits of the people, not a place to dump garbage or industrial waste. The government can pressure the industry to stop dirtying the rivers. Meanwhile, the public can encourage people around them to stop dumping garbage to the rivers and to keep the rivers clean. This is a perfect harmony and cooperation that will result in something positive.
To make sure that the program will continue, the government develops a data bank which records every single program and activities related to River School. This way, it will be easier to evaluate which activities are the most effective and which are not feasible to be done in West Papua. As a result, River School will not be just a ceremonial thing, but a continuous program that can help mitigating water related disasters in West Papua and protecting rivers in this province.