Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Learning from Disasters : A social movement to a civic society

Natural disasters are inevitable. Is that really true? Probably not all the case is true. What about human factor in natural disaster? There are some disasters that are caused by human factors such as landslides, flooding, droughts, fires and many others. These disasters are mainly driven by the fact that human beings undermine the importance of sustainability principles: lack of landscape management and spatial planning, over settlement issues, over utilisation of natural resources, lack of environmental assessment and lack of actions to restore habitat degradation by local stakeholders.

We learn from disasters and we put so much efforts in the form of national and even international budget to provide shelters for those who were displaced. Maybe we are fancy with this stuff as this lead to a political pressure to endorse government budget for reconstruction activities. However, there appears that we never learn that disasters can easily return and devastate our reconstructed facilities and lives unless there are efforts to prevent further catastrophic consequences by eliminating any potential factors that can reduce the catastrophic impact of natural disasters on human beings and their belongings. Where were we when saw unsustainable practices taking places in our community? We let such things happen and we wait for disasters!

The Typhoon Morakok disaster in Taiwan has called upon all stakeholders in the region to address the disaster accordingly. Efforts to help those in need of help were underway in such a way that was focused on human landscape perspective. To our observation during the Typhoon Morakok Workshop, the anticipated disaster management more stressed on the need to tackle the catastrophic impact on human facilities in the first place (disaster relief) rather than putting it together to improve the ecological structure immediately to prevent further catastrophe from the typhoon (disaster mitigation).

Moreover, we learn that the typhoon morakok seems to be the issue for indigenous people only. Indigenous people are claimed as those who suffer most as they would lose their origins of nature and culture as a result of the disaster. Probably it is not the case as the scope of the workshop appeared to be narrowed to the movement of indigenous people to tackle the problems, mainly facilitated and mobilised by the CMCU. This leads to a critical question: are we on the right track when we deal with this issue by focusing on indigenous perspective? What about the whole society and the environment in the disaster relief management? These questions would lead us to a mindset that a holistic approach in disaster relief and mitigation need to be put forward. In other words, we all share the responsibility to cope with the challenges in disaster management by utilising all available resources in accordance with the social rights and environmental principles for the benefit of the society and the ecology as a whole.

Looking at the forest restoration programme in Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP) by the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), Sumatra, Indonesia, we learn that we are attempting to tackle the problems of deforestation by empowering the local people as the steward of the rainforest protection in the region. The deforestation in GLNP mainly caused by ignorance to unsustainable forest exploitation and lack of law enforcement to promote firm protection over the natural resources in GLNP. This restoration programme seems to reflect that we can offer solution only to slow down the natural devastation as a result of uncontrolled natural resource utilisation from the rainforest. Economic development however become the main drive over this utilisation. Conversion of forests to agricultural plantation such as oil palm plantation has been underway to fulfil the increasing demand by global market. Can we stop the demand by global market anyway? This is not easy to answer but this question has brought all workshop participants to come up with some possible ideas in the hope that agricultural plantation in the region should be managed accordingly and thus global customer power can lead to a pressure to promote sustainable agricultural plantation that benefits the environment and social rights movement. Moreover, the restoration programme also give us hopes to make a change in our environment and with this hopes, we will do something to overcome all the challenges and prevent further catastrophe on global habitat.

All in all, the typhoon morakok workshop has given us opportunity to explore all possible solution in disaster management with tangible results. All ideas have led us to look forward to addressing all the challenges in a feasible way and thus build community leadership among us as society members to create necessary conditions to achieve a civic society.

Meinong, 24 September 2010.
Panut Hadisiswoyo

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