A story in the red zone of Merapi (kognisia.co)

(The original version of this article was published on kognisia.co on October 26, 2017 and can be accessed here).

On Thursday 18th October 2017, we Masters students of the profession (Mapro) Psychology UII moved to voice the actual circumstances in Cangkringan subdistrict of Pangukrejo, padukuhan, Sleman.

Following the aftermath of the 2010 eruptions, many of the residents were relocated. Departing from our brainstorming with Merapi community activist, Oktavianto Akbar, we began by conducting some research using one of the most powerful data collection tools in Psychology (interviews and observations) in an informal school named Sekolah Gunung  Merapi (SGM). One of the founders of this school was Fajar Radite, a post graduate from UGM who is also an activist and volunteer in social and educational fields.

The are in question is the sub-village of Pangukrejo, which since the eruptions has been designated by the Government as a Disaster-Prone Area Level III (Kawasan Rawan Bencana or KRB III). This means that due to the potential high risk, the area is prohibited from being an area of residence and may not be inhabited or formally developed with any permanent constructions. Initially, we found the existence of learning disorders and psychological disorders in children living in this area. After further research and more  in-depth interviews, we concluded that many of the learning issues and psychological disorders being experienced by children in SGM are the result of problems arising from the eruption of Merapi in 2010. Finally, we wanted to present the results of our little research in a scientific seminar.

On October 18 2017, at the Auditorium of the Faculty of social sciences, psychology and culture, we organised a Seminar on the theme of Community Development and Empowerment of Disasted Affected Communities. We invited four speakers from among academics, volunteers working directly in the area and members of local governance. They are Heddy Shri Ahimsa, Fajar Radite, Noer Cholik, and Subagjo. Our goal was to get the whole picture of the problems of citizens who have chosen to return to their original homes and not to stay in the relocation villages known as “HunTap” (Hunian Tetap or Pemanent Residence areas) even though their home is now in the area clearly defined as an uninhabitable Red Zone or KRB III.

Ahimsa, a professor from the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM) would act as a resource person who has experience of scientific research regarding the relocation of residents affected by the eruption of Merapi. Ahimsa posed an interesting question to the participants; is relocation necessary for residents who have already lived in harmony with Merapi for decades? Especially if they are already extremely aware of the signs from nature for when Merapi will be turbulent. In some cases they even have many spiritual signs for when Merapi will be active. Professor Ahimsa also enlightened us of some of the correct requirements and best practises for a successful relocation programme. Finally, Ahimsa concluded his talk with some points of critique of the design and methods applied in the government relocation programme, as result of organisers overlooking some key aspects.

We requested the presence of Subagjo, the current head of Pangukrejo sub-village, to share openly why so many citizens have opted to return to their original homes after relocation, even though this area has been clearly designated as a red zone. According to Subagjo, at present there are ± 200 Pangukrejo households (KK), thus approximately up to 600 inhabitants who have returned to the Red Zone, choosing to return inspite of some critical difficulties they will face by living in this area. Subagjo doesn’t hesitate to explain some of the problems faced by his citizens today. One of the most crucial and recurring issues has been the difficulty to supply one of life’s most basic needs: water. Water is strictly rationed to supply of  1 hour every 4 days per household. This is due to the technical difficulties of the nearest water source being so far below the village in the Kali Kuning river valley.

Nur Choliq, is one of the seminars speakers currently working with the Geological, Volcanology and Geological Agency of Indonesia and Disaster Mitigation Center. He confessed as being a person whose stance is with one foot on the side of the Government, with the other on the side of the citizens. Choliq, who used to work with the BPPTKG (Buro of Investigation and Development of Technology of Geological Disaster), begins by describing the history of the formation of Merapi volcano over 2000 years before the present. He continues by also sharing his efforts to socialise and explain disaster mitigation concepts in a way that can be easily understood by children. His reasoning for this is based on the fact that at present all concepts of Merapi’s disaster mitigation are all in written form, are long and boring. So it doesn’t make people interested in learning how and what should be done when the Merapi shows signs of eruption. He would like to teach concepts of Merapi disaster mitigation by creating animations, that can be easily understood by all walks of life.

Fajar Radite, our fourth speaker, community activist and co-founder of SGM (Sekolah Gunung Merapi). Fajar shares the beginnings of the founding of the SGM and also problems currently faced by the people of Pangukrejo. In addition, he also shared the initial idea of why he moved to set up a SGM at Padukuhan Pangukrejo, before realising the full extent of the problems being faced by the people there. One case study he shares concerns the community managed ticket portal, which for many years served as the of major income for Pangukrejo and solid alternative to the government funds unable to be spent on local infrastructure because of the Red Zone status. This portal was later taken over by the local Government under the alias of ‘avoiding illegal and unofficial ticketing’, amongst other reasons.

We have held this event in the hope that the participants, especially our Committee might become more aware of the problems being faced by communities affected by the eruption of merapi, and more aware of how this issue is by no means a simple issues because of the variety of actors involved in it: the community itself, groups and organisations within that community, local as well as the central government.

We also learnt more about some of the issues affecting Pangukrejo, particularly those which may be linked to the causes of psychological and educational problems being experienced by the students of Sekolah Gunung Merapi.

In our opinion, UII as one of the centres of Islamic higher education and leaders of the bright and intellectual next generation, that has a vision as a university that is Rahmatan Lil’alamin, should pay a bigger role in helping to resolve the problems faced by the people affected by the Merapi eruption. In addition, UIInshould also be doing more research to find the right solution regarding the problems being faced by the community, particulary those on the slopes of merapi located in Red Zone. Because after all, whether or not the citizens who have returned to the red zone are recognized or not recognized by the Government, these people, especially those in Pangukrejo, are the nearest neighbors of this House of wisdom and reasoning named Universitas Islam Indonesia.

(Arie Garda, Fahri, Himawan, Raras, Juine, Henni, Mey).

* The author is a student of master of Profession Psychology UII

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *