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Deforestation blamed for Sumatra floods

Padang (UCAN): Thousands of people affected by flooding in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia, received rice, clothes, blankets, drinking water, cooking utensils and other relief items from the diocese of Padang in West Sumatra on April 11.

Bruno Sagari, from Muntei village in South Siberut sub-district, said, “For two days we could not cook and waited for outside help. Our cooking utensils were carried away by flood water.” 

Heavy rains in the preceding week caused rivers to overflow, inundating more than 1,000 homes in four sub-districts and forcing around 7,000 people to evacuate. 

Father Alexius Sudarmanto, head of the diocesan Socio-Economic Development Commission-Caritas (PSE Caritas), said the commission sent relief goods to the Assumption of Mary Church in Siberut, the nearest station to the flood victims. He said that conditions in the area made it difficult to transport and distribute the materials.

According to Khalid Syaifullah, executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment for West Sumatra, the flooding on the islands is the result of massive deforestation.

“Deforestation has caused (deterioration) of land, which eventually (resulted) in the sedimentation of the Sikabaluan River,” he explained. Sedimentation, in turn, contributes to river overflow.

“We issued recommendations to the local government to stop issuing permits to exploit forests in West Sumatra, but no concrete action was taken,” Syaifullah said. 

“We will again pressure the local government to stop giving operation permits to plantations.”

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