Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said the year 2016 was the worst year over the past 14 years in terms of natural disasters in Indonesia. A total of 2,342 natural disasters, including landslides, floods, storms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, were counted by the agency, up 35.2 percent year-on-year (y/y) from 1,732 natural disasters in the preceding year.
The rising amount of natural disasters that strike in Indonesia should be reason for authorities to improve monitoring, mitigation, and risk management in order to limit the number of casualties in future natural disasters. In 2016 a total of 522 people lost their lives, while around three million people were injured due to a natural disaster.
Most natural disasters in Indonesia that occurred in 2016 - about 92 percent of the total - fall in the hydro-meteorology category. This category includes landslides, floods and strong winds. Floods are the most common disasters within this category (occurring a total of 766 times throughout 2016) but landslides are the deadliest (killing a total of 188 people in separate events).
Good news is that forest fires were less frequent in 2016 compared to preceding years. However, this is hardly a surprise considering forest fires in the months June-October 2015 ran out of hand completely.
Generally Indonesians have a low awareness of environmental sustainable practices (that is why you will see many Indonesians throw garbage on the street rather than into a garbage bin). This low awareness and responsibility is also behind farmers' and companies' traditional use of slash-and-burn practices (a strategy to clear land for plantations, usually for the expansion of crude palm oil or pulp and paper plantations), primarily on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The slash-and-burn strategy is the cheapest option. Although this practice is actually not allowed by Indonesian law, weak law enforcement and corruption make it possible. However, the practice entails serious and far-reaching risks.
The man-made forest fires in 2015 are among the worst global natural disasters ever. Based on a World Bank report - released in December 2015 - some 100,000 man-made forest fires destroyed about 2.6 million hectares of land between June and October 2015 and caused toxic haze to spread to other parts of Southeast Asia, giving rise to diplomatic tensions. This disaster is estimated to have cost Indonesia IDR 221 trillion (approx. USD $16 billion or 1.9 percent of the country's gross domestic product) and it released some 11.3 million tons of carbon each day (a figure that exceeds the 8.9 million tons of daily carbon emissions in the European Union).
Read more: Natural Disasters in Indonesia
Due to its position on the Pacific Ring of Fire (an area with a high degree of tectonic activity), Indonesia has to cope with the constant risk of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods and tsunamis.
On Wednesday 7 December 2016 a 6.4-magnitude (undersea) earthquake in Aceh (Sumatra) killed a total of 103 people. This quake topped the list in terms of most deadly natural disaster in Indonesia in 2016.
Natural Disasters in Indonesia 2013-2016:
|Number of Natural Disasters
Source: National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB)