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The floods have begun. Every year this happens. Every year the rainy season arrives and Jakarta's sewers and trash-clogged canals overflow, filling the streets and in many cases houses, with putrid water.
I recently moved to higher ground, liberating myself from having to wade to and from my house, which was located at the bottom of a depression, a small bowl, in South Jakarta. I used to take rafts in and out of the neighborhood, operated by entrepreneurial youth. Once I paid a heavy-set man several dollars to carry me on his shoulders. All too often though, coming home late at night, I had to just roll up my pants, or take them off completely, and close my mind to whatever it was wrapping itself around my ankles.
My experience hardly compares to the thousands, some years tens of thousands, of people who are expelled from their homes by ceiling-high floods. In 2007, such floods displaced 340,000 people and covered in estimated 60 percent of the city.
Jakarta's new governor made no small point during the election of promising to put an end to this yearly debacle, which can snarl traffic and shut down airports for days. But so far the flooding persists. Adding to the problem: environmental groups say that Jakarta is sinking and could be entirely under water in less than a decade.
The good news is that, according to most Indonesians, the really dangerous floods, ones like 2007, only happen in a mysterious cycle of every five years. So we are assured of relative safety until 2012.