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DisasterLink Country Profile: Indonesia

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Indonesia at a Glance

Population: 273.9 Million (2020) 
Major Threats: Floods, Earthquakes, Volcanic Eruption, Tsunamis 
Populations Affected: Urban and Rural Poor, Farms and Fishers, Coastal Communities 
Locations Affected: Sumatra and Java (most at risk) 
Industries Affected: Agriculture, Fishing, Manufacturing 
Compounding Issues: Urban Migration, Poor Land-use Planning, Environmental Degradation, Climate Change 
World Risk Index Ranking: 37
Global Climate Risk Index: 64


Indonesia’s 17,000 islands and extensive coastline put it at risk from sea-level rise and various natural disasters, including floods and geological events like earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. Approximately 40 percent of the population, around 90 million people, face these threats.

While the national government has decentralized disaster and climate change response structures, funding often shifts from preparation and mitigation to emergency response efforts.

Despite allocating one percent of the national budget to disaster and climate change mitigation, many donor agencies, international NGOs (INGOs), and local NGOs struggle to access funding. This is partly due to government policy prioritizing support for government-led programs rather than civil society organizations.

International donors and grantmakers can play a vital role in supporting local organizations focused on community-based disaster preparedness. Whether it’s climate change adaptation in agriculture or awareness and evacuation planning in vulnerable areas, Indonesia requires extensive international support to address climate change and disaster challenges effectively.

Major Threats and Economy

The southern and western Indonesian islands, such as Sumatra and Java, are highly susceptible to various hazards, including earthquakes, floods, landslides, and volcanic activity. Vulnerability is exacerbated by factors like population growth, inadequate infrastructure, and poor land-use planning, leading to settlements in high-risk areas. Nearly 25 million people live in informal settlements exposed to these dangers.

Despite government efforts to reduce disaster-related fatalities, Indonesia still suffers substantial economic losses, around 0.3 percent of GDP (approximately USD$1.5 billion) annually. Major earthquakes can result in damage equivalent to three percent of GDP. To safeguard against crop losses, investments are needed in drought-resistant seeds, diversified crops, and early warning systems. Improved flood management and agricultural infrastructure are essential.

Environmental degradation, including deforestation and damage to protective reefs, mangroves, and wetlands, exacerbates the risk of landslides, floods, and severe storm surges. Jakarta, the capital city, is sinking at a rate of 3.5 centimeters per year, with roughly 40 percent of the city lying below sea level, making it highly prone to flooding. Land subsidence, caused by informal well drilling for groundwater, contributes to this issue. While the city plans to widen rivers to reduce flood risks, many riverbank residents resist relocation due to their reliance on the natural environment.

Climate Change Impacts

Indonesia, like much of Southeast Asia, faces an increase in the risk of natural disasters due to climate change. This phenomenon leads to more frequent and severe storms, resulting in both floods and droughts. These shifts have a direct impact on food production and natural resources. Notably, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) projects that for every one-degree Celsius rise in temperature, Indonesia’s rice yield will decrease by 10 percent. Additionally, Indonesia contributes significantly to carbon dioxide emissions through forest burning for land clearance, a practice that exacerbates deforestation and raises the likelihood of landslides and more severe flooding. These man-made forest fires also lead to up to 300,000 deaths annually and negatively affect air quality in neighboring countries.

Indonesia, boasting the world’s fourth-largest coastline, is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and changing rainy seasons. However, policies and legislation directly addressing Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) remain in the early stages of development.

A number of CCA programs and initiatives have been introduced by national and international NGOs in recent years, focusing mainly on the following areas: 

  • Awareness raising 
  • Adaptation to and mitigation of effects of flooding, drought, deforestation, and sea level rise 
  • CCA risk assessment 
  • Green jobs such as green social entrepreneurship and sustainable tourism 
  • Organic farming techniques
  • Livelihoods, food and water security 

Hydrometeorological Vulnerability

Flooding, accounting for 39 percent of all disasters, exerts the most significant impact on people’s livelihoods and poses a substantial threat to urban centers like Jakarta, Medan, and Bandung. These densely populated areas in western provinces are susceptible to inundation during heavy rainfall events. For instance, in 2007, the Bengawan Solo river basin flooding in Central and East Java caused approximately $170 million in economic damage.

Jakarta, the capital with its 10 million residents, faces extreme vulnerability to flooding due to its naturally low-lying topography. Already, 40 percent of the city lies below sea level, and with an average sinking rate of 3.5 centimeters per year, its susceptibility is increasing. Major flooding events occurred in 1996, 2002, 2007, and 2013, underscoring the pressing need for flood mitigation measures.

Geophysical Vulnerability

Situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire with 129 active volcanoes, Indonesia faces a dual threat from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. These events, characterized by their unpredictability and wide-ranging impacts, pose the most significant hazards to the country. Earthquakes and tsunamis alone account for 28 percent of all disasters in Indonesia, trailing only behind floods.

The devastating 2004 earthquake and tsunami in Aceh province claimed over 165,000 lives in Indonesia and resulted in a GDP loss of USD$4.5 billion. This catastrophe also triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean, resulting in a total death toll exceeding 230,000 across 14 countries. In 2006, another earthquake shook Yogyakarta and Java, affecting 3.2 million people.

Volcanic eruptions also take a toll on lives and disrupt communities. In 2010, Mount Merapi, aptly named Fire Mountain, erupted, displacing over 300,000 people. More recently, in February 2014, Mount Sinabung in Northern Sumatra and Mount Kelud in East Java erupted, causing 34 fatalities and displacing more than 130,000 people combined.

To address these risks, the Ministry of Finance established Maipark, the Indonesia Earthquake Reinsurance Pool, offering affordable insurance premiums based on government-defined hazard zones. This coverage extends to houses, offices, malls, factories, communication towers, and schools, encompassing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, fire, and tsunamis. While Yogyakarta, one of Indonesia’s most vulnerable regions, insured public assets worth USD$90 billion in 2010, budget constraints led to a significant drop to $20 billion in 2011.

Adaptation and Local Context

Adaptation and The National Government

The Indonesian government has established structures and processes for disaster management, particularly since 1999 when decentralization efforts began, shifting decision-making and funding to provincial and district levels. The Disaster Management Law passed in 2007, mandated the creation of disaster management agencies at national, provincial, and district levels. The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) was founded in 2008.

However, challenges persist. Local disaster management agencies (BPBDs) have been established across provinces and districts, but they often lack the technical knowledge and skills needed to provide effective support. Government staff may struggle to develop disaster mitigation plans, despite training, due to a lack of clarity on practical disaster risk reduction and policy translation.

To address this, the BNPB created the National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction (NAP-DRR) for 2010-2012, allocating a budget for disaster management, establishing risk financing and insurance schemes, raising awareness, and implementing safety standards.

When disasters occur, the strain on the government’s budget to restore public infrastructure is significant. The Disaster Management Authority (DMA) plays a central role in disaster mitigation, emergency response, and recovery, collaborating with other ministries on projects. However, coordination with national agencies remains challenging due to differing priorities and information gaps.

The disconnect between national and local governments is evident, with only 18 out of 33 provinces establishing municipal disaster management agencies. Many local agencies have limited resources, inadequate equipment, and lack disaster preparedness plans, relying on the national disaster fund rather than their provincial budgets.

Adaptation and The United Nations

UNDP collaborates with local communities to provide earthquake emergency response education, helping residents recognize early warning signs and enhance disaster preparedness. Moreover, UNDP partners with provincial governments to raise awareness about disaster management and integrate risk reduction education into school curricula. Local government officials play an active role in disseminating disaster preparedness information through local TV and radio programs.

Adaptation at the Local Level

Due to the agreement between the Indonesian government and donor agencies, most support provided is government-to-government. This means donor activities primarily strengthen government agencies, leaving limited opportunities for local NGOs to access funding directly. Local NGOs focused on disaster resilience lack both funding and management capacity.

Plan International’s 2012 assessment identified 40 technically capable local NGOs in Indonesia. UNOCHA, funded by SIDA, collaborated with five local NGOs for emergency response after a 2012 Sumatra earthquake. Similarly, OFDA has worked with a few local NGOs on disaster preparedness since 2010. These local NGOs usually operate within networks facilitated by donors or INGOs.


Indonesia ranks second in overseas development assistance for disaster risk reduction, receiving $558.4 million from 2006 to 2010, with Japan contributing 80 percent, mainly for flood prevention. Over two decades (1991-2010), Japan provided $846.3 million for flood mitigation and $227.9 million for disaster risk reduction.

In 2012, Indonesia allocated around one percent of its GDP to disaster risk reduction, up from less than 0.6 percent in 2006, as reported by the UN. However, the World Bank noted a drop in the disaster response budget from 2.1 percent to 0.8 percent between 2006 and 2010.

Alongside government efforts, various international organizations, including UNOCHA, UNDP, USAID, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and New Zealand Aid, play vital roles. INGOs like Plan International, Save the Children, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, and HOPE Worldwide are also active in Indonesia’s disaster preparedness.

Opportunities and Recommendations to International Donors

Though Indonesia is working to mitigate disasters and address climate change at many levels, local NGOs and CBOs still have trouble accessing funds. Give2Asia recommends that international donors work through these local organizations to address needs in their target communities, thus building organizational capacity as well as implementing projects. Opportunities for donors include: 

  • Implementing early warning systems 
  • Training and education on evacuation plans and shelters 
  • Climate change adaptation for agricultural workers through drought-resistant seeds and crop diversification
  • Jakarta-based flood prevention programs 
  • Training volunteers as first responders in disaster-prone areas
  • Providing expertise and funding for local governments to develop disaster mitigation plans

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