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Rob Flood on the Demak Coast, Students Study with Soaked Feet

Flood tides began to recede, the streets were not yet completely dry. That morning, Cantika Ariani, went to school barefoot. She lifted her white skirt to calf height while carrying shoes.

Arriving on dry roads, Cantika hitched a ride to wash her feet at her neighbor’s house and then put on her shoes. Cantika does this regularly because the roads are often submerged by tidal floods.

When the tidal flood is at its peak, Cantika is forced to walk barefoot all the way to her school at Madrasah Aliyah Nu-3 Ittihad Bahari, about 1.5 kilometers.

“If there is no rob, you can run (when going to school). Fast. Not even half an hour,” he said. When it floods, it takes longer to get to school.

Not only the road to school, Cantika’s house is also often submerged in tidal floods. Rumah Cantika is about 1.6 km from the shoreline of Morodemak Beach, Bonang District, Demak Regency, Central Java.

Since three years ago, his house has become a frequent occurrence of tidal floods and has even been submerged up to 30 cm. One bedroom in his house has been raised 60 cm from the first floor. Cupboards, tables, electronic equipment and other items are propped up so they don’t get submerged in water when the rob comes.

If Rob comes while getting ready for school, Cantika has to be extra careful, such as when picking up clothes. He had to slow down, so the clothes don’t fall into the puddle. Even when taking a shower, Cantika’s feet were submerged.

The tidal flood also made Cantika’s study hours erratic. If there was a dry place he could study, if there wasn’t one, he had to study in an elevated room. To do school work, not infrequently, he hitchhiked to a friend’s house which was not flooded.

“If there is an assignment or homework [homework] to a friend whose house is flat, it won’t be flooded,” he said.

In Demak, it’s not only difficult for students to access school, there are even schools whose buildings have been submerged by the tidal floods. Purworejo 1 Public Elementary School, Purworejo Village, Bonang District, Demak, one of them. Since 2020, access and schools have always been submerged by tidal floods.

The field at the school can no longer be a place for ceremonies, games, sports or other physical activities. The water level varies from the ankles to the calves of adults. There is one tall building, namely, the 5th grade room which was renovated into a stage floor.

During the teaching and learning process, students and teachers do not wear shoes. Students wear sandals. Some teachers choose to wear sandals. There are also wearing gaiters in the form of rubber boots.

The classroom wall made of plywood was broken. Tables, chairs, and cupboards weathered and overgrown with small corals. Floors are always flooded.

“Learning is still the same, according to the normal curriculum. Just distracted. For example, a child who comes in wet is usually told to go home and change. Furthermore, the teacher will monitor so that the child does not get wet again,” said Hadi Ihsanul Majid, a Grade 5 teacher at SD Negeri Purworejo 1.

Just like at Cantika’s house, things at SD Negeri Purworejo 1, especially electronics, have been moved to a higher place, on chairs or tables.

The tidal flood not only damaged school facilities, the learning atmosphere was uncomfortable. The number of students gradually decreased. In the past, there were an average of 140 people, since 2020, only 124 students remain.

Access to this school was also flooded, for example from Pasar Gandong to the school about 500 meters submerged by more than 40 cm.

SD Negeri Purworejo 3, located less than one kilometer from the sea, also experienced a similar problem. The school which is located in this alley is on the ground floor, the teacher’s office, classrooms for class IV, class V and class VI are lower than the alley way. They have water pumps but they won’t work if a big flood comes. The classrooms remained flooded.

They started to experience rob five years ago and have gotten worse since 2019. Even though they have raised the building four times, they are still submerged in water when the sea waves are high.

It’s getting harder

Tidal floods make life difficult for residents. “When can elevate the house. So that I can understand, pray fervently,” said Rohmatin, Cantika’s grandmother.

Rohmatin’s daily activities have increased since the rob came. She has to clean up the house and carry her grandson who is still in elementary school until the road is dry.

The stagnant roads were also covered in moss, causing her to frequently slip when carrying her grandson to school.

Rob limits the movement of the community to access safe and comfortable education.

Anis Soraya, a resident of Morodemak, also experienced the same problem. Their children at MTs have to join factory workers to go to school, which is about 4.8 km from their house.

If not, the cost of going to school will increase, while the family lives only from a small shop with an uncertain income.

There are three public transportation options for Anis’s children to choose from. There is a motorbike trishaw to go back and forth Rp. 10,000. There is an angkot with a fare of IDR 5,000 1.5 km from the house or use a delman IDR 3,000-IDR 10,000.

“The school depends on factory workers. That’s all if you can. If not, then don’t go to school,” said Anis.

Waiting to sink

Tidal flooding continues. Schools on the coast of Demak are trying to keep the teaching and learning process running, one of which is by raising the floor of the school. However, difficult road access—submerged in tidal water and slippery—has made some contractors refuse to take on a school renovating project. The location of being submerged by tidal water also makes material difficult to stockpile.

“On average, contractors don’t want to because access to materials is difficult. If rob comes, can’t work. Sand that is hoarded will disappear when the rob comes. You can’t hoard building materials,” said Mahbub Junaidi, staff of the SD and SMP Sarpras, Department of Education and Culture of Demak.

The Regional Development Planning, Research and Development Agency (Bappelitbangda) of Demak also plans to build a coastal belt. He will connect several areas, including Genuk, Sayung, Karangtengah, Bonang and Wedung sub-districts to Jepara.

The central government also has a plan. Ahmad Nur Azizul Miftah, Head of the Regional Economic and Infrastructure Division of the Demak Research and Development Agency, said there was discussion about “embankments retaining rob and abrasion” at the ministry.

The Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR), he said, emphasized the disaster management approach in tackling tidal floods.

The coastal belt in the form of a toll road and a sea wall has started on a small scale in Sayung District. This highway and sea wall only protect the surrounding area, while the sea water continues to move, increasingly shifting to the east.

“Because there was a rob, an embankment, mangroves, or whatever it was, was built. Development only occurs when an event occurs. There was no effort before it happened,” said Mila Karmilah, Head of Urban and Regional Planning Study Program, Unissula.

The coast of Central Java, affected by abrasion covering an area of ​​7,957.89 hectares, with the highest being Brebes with an area of ​​2,392.95 hectares, Demak 2,218.23 hectares, and Semarang 1,919.57 hectares.

If this condition continues, he said, the coast will sink, and schools will close. The education of children living on the coast, he said, was threatened with no clarity.

Muhammad Helmi, marine expert at Diponegoro University in the book “Maleh Dadi Segoro: The Socio-Ecological Crisis of the Semarang-Demak Coastal Area,” said that the cause of the more intense abrasion in Demak is buildings that protrude into the sea, especially in Semarang.

Groundwater extraction, he said, is often the cause of land subsidence, making this area even more prone to tidal flooding.

For Mila Karmilah, the cause of the tidal flood in Demak, particularly in the Bonang District, was due to the changing currents. In the past, Tanjung Emas and Sayung Ports could restrain the flow. When several hamlets in Bedono sank, the sea water moved towards Timbulsloko, then arrived at Karangtengah District, entering Bonang.

He suspects that the construction of the embankment and the Semarang-Demak toll road has exacerbated tidal flooding in several villages in Bonang District. Development on land, he said, will have an impact on land subsidence so that seawater reaches the land.

Mila also said that land subsidence was not yet compact, so it continued to occur until it was in a solid and compact position.

He offered several solutions to deal with tidal flooding, including not building extensively in coastal areas. When an area has soil characteristics that are not suitable for massive development such as heavy industry and infrastructure, he said, the plan must be stopped.

Mangrove planting, he said, could inhibit the inflow to the mainland so that it slightly reduces the impact of tidal floods.

The city of Semarang, said Mila, has 43 pump houses with 78 pumping machines. As for Demak, it doesn’t have a single pumping machine to suck the flood out of the mainland.

The use of this water pump is considered effective in dealing with flooding in Semarang City but not in other areas.

“Supposedly, the use of water pumps is integrated with other areas.”

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