Devastating Floods and Landslides in Kayong Utara Regency, West Kalimantan

By Petrus Kanisius, Communications Officer

With every rainy season that arrives, we are very vulnerable to the potential for flooding and landslides, especially in several areas of the Kayong Utara Regency. This possibility keeps us all vigilant, particularly those who live around the region’s large hills. Though heavy rainfall can be a natural phenomenon, flooding in the region is exacerbated due to deforestation, which reduces the ability of the  land to absorb large quantities of water when it rains. When intense rainfall occurs for 1-2 days, it is certain there will be flooding. Many parts of Kayong Utara are located in a valley, below large hills. These hills now have reduced forest cover, which would typically help to absorb rainfall. This reduction in forest cover has been caused by human activity such as illegal logging, mining and forest fires. Other factors, such as the soft contours of the soil during high rainfall, make for increased vulnerability to landslides. 

On July 14th, intense flooding occurred throughout Kayong Utara, including in the Sukadana sub-district. The flooding in Sukadana not only brought material losses, but also resulted in two fatalities. Floods and landslides submerged most of the community’s houses, places of worship, offices, and other facilities, and paralyzed people’s daily activities. The impact of this incident hit close to home for us at Yayasan Palung. We suffered damage to several buildings at our Bentangor Environmental Education Center located in Pampang Harapan Village. More tragically, this incident resulted in the death of two family members of a Yayasan Palung staff member.

Floods submerged Bentangor Environmental Education Center in Pampang Harapan Village. The building sits atop wooden stilts. Pictured here is the elevated front porch of the building. The dirt road and wooden floorboards have been covered by water.

Inside the main building at Bentangor, a submerged couch demonstrates the height of the flood water.

In addition, floods and landslides damaged several facilities of our Sustainable Livelihoods groups. The organic fertilizer production house has been damaged, and agricultural plants and seeds were washed away from the land used by our Meteor Garden organic farming group. The Mina Segua aquaculture group also suffered losses, losing a large number of fish species in their above-ground ponds, due to the flood waters.

Flooding and landslides also impacted other members of our staff, some experiencing damage at their own homes. This tragic incident serves as an opportunity for the community to reflect upon and pay more attention to the importance of preserving the environment, especially on a very local scale. There is a need for vigilance from each of us who reside in these vulnerable areas. We must take steps to anticipate flooding and landslides, and be alert, considering that flash floods can occur at any time.

Mud covers the floor inside Bentangor the day after the building flooded.

On a larger scale, we must put effort into mitigating these disastrous effects, including 1) choosing to use and cultivate natural resources sustainably, 2) reducing the massive exploitation of natural resources so that they do not become completely damaged or extinct, 3) increasing efforts to renew natural resources via reforestation, and 4) using technological advances to preserve the remaining natural resources. This is of utmost concern for all of us – the government, the private sector, and the community.

A team gathers to search for missing victims among remnants of flooding and landslides in Pamapang Harapan Village.

We have started a fundraiser to support the rebuilding of our Bentangor Environmental Education Center and Sustainable Livelihood group lands, as well as donate funds to our long-term staff member who lost his wife and daughter in this tragic incident. Please consider making a charitable contribution to help support the community. Click here for more information about the flood recovery fund.