Opinion Author: Ratna Kusumaningrum Comments
ASIA: Indonesia

Heading off damage before it happens could have a big payoff

Mobility is a key issue in urban regional planning and development. As urban population grows, the need for quality and well-performing transportation grows as well.

To accommodate that need, urban transport systems need to be maintained and improved, taking into account not only accessibility and safety but also the effects of climate change.

Climate change’s impact on transport can be felt in many respects, from infrastructure itself to less-tangible aspects such as public transportation management and logistics. Flooding and heavy rain will affect roads, and when roads decline, getting people and products where they need to be takes more time, and could make market prices rise.

And climate change doesn’t only affect land transportation. Air and water transport also are highly dependent on climatic conditions. That means climate threats need to be managed in a serious way so they do not lead to big losses.

Indonesia is facing the same issues as many countries around the world. Important national roads such as the Java North Coast National Road that connects major cities in the Java islands have faced heavy damage from overloading of vehicles, flooding, sea level rise and inundation in some sections. The government of Indonesia is aware of the problem, but still has limited plans to help the country’s transportation sector adapt to changing climatic conditions.

Most of the Indonesian government’s climate action plan is focused on the implementation of climate change mitigation efforts, while adaptation plans focus mainly on settlements and housing. There are only limited plans related to climate change adaptation in transport.

Today, efforts to deal with climate change adaptation in transport are mainly responses to damage, without any systematic plan to prevent those losses. Most institutions related to transport in the country simply wait for damage to occur before stepping up to respond.

Based on a study on the monitoring and evaluation of climate change adaptation in transport, released by Bappenas – Indonesia’s National Development Agency – in 2015, most transport institutions in Indonesia do not have any planning documents, systematic schemes or special units related to climate change adaptation.

Study data shows that only 33 percent of institutions have special unit responsible for climate change impact, and just 17 percent had a study or database related to climate change impacts on transportation. Some government and private institutions working on transport issues also did not understand the difference between climate change mitigation and adaptation, and classified some efforts to reduce emissions as climate change adaptation.

To change that, it’s important to develop not only awareness but deep understanding about the importance of adapting transport to climate change impacts. That’s key to achieving sustainable and resilient urban and regional development.

Ratna Kusumaningrum is a project assistant at Indonesia's National Development Agency (Bappenas). Her blog was one of four finalists in the 2016 Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) blog competition.

This blog was originally posted on Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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