Beginning on New Year’s Eve, torrential rain caused some of the worst flooding in and around Jakarta for more than a decade. Residents of this low-lying city are used to heavy rain and flooding at this time of year, but as a spokesperson for the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said, this was “not ordinary rain”. More than 300mm fell in a single day – the most since 1996, when records began. Up to 100,000 people were reportedly forced to flee their homes and more than 60 people died.


Fixing Jakarta’s problems with flooding has been a fraught political issue for decades. In the wake of these floods, and with so many Jakartans from all walks of life affected, people were again looking for a target for their frustrations. Informal settlements along the Ciliwung River have long been a focus for policymakers, with their removal a key policy of both former governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama and current Governor Anies Baswedan. But what do we know about the people who live in these settlements, sometimes for decades, risking constant threats of floods and eviction? Who are they? What has brought them to live in such precarious conditions? What is their everyday experience of living with regular flooding? Can they be part of the solution to tackle the problem?


In Talking Indonesia this week, Dr Jemma Purdey chats to anthropologist Roanne van Voorst, who lived for more than a year in a settlement on the banks of the Ciliwung River. They discuss the histories of these settlements and the complex social structures within these communities, their warning and recovery systems after flooding, and how residents negotiate their vulnerabilities everyday.


In 2020, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Jemma Purdey from Deakin University and the Australia-Indonesia Centre, Dr Dave McRae from the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, Dr Charlotte Setijadi from Singapore Management University and Dr Dirk Tomsa from La Trobe University.


Look out for a new Talking Indonesia podcast every fortnight. Catch up on previous episodes here, subscribe via iTunes or listen via your favourite podcasting app.


Photo by Hendra A Setyawan.


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