TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Scientist of the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) Harkunti Pertiwi Rahayu is one of many people involved in a national tsunami-detector project that was recently highlighted in US` news agencies by University of Pittsburg`s expert in disaster management, Louise Comfort.
Louise Comfort said that the feud between Indonesian agencies exists upon who is actually responsible for the installment of the country’s tsunami detection equipment prior to the disaster that struck Palu and Donggala, Central Sulawesi.
“Let me clarify what Comfort said which is being dragged-on like this; well, it honestly has made many people a little baffled,” wrote Harkunti in a text message to Tempo on Friday, October 5.
“This research involved several individuals, scientists from numerous universities and institutions in the United States and Indonesia. I underline the fact that the project was run by individuals and experts where each and every institution gave their letter of support that undermines their expert contribution and benefit of the research. So the project is not between countries,” said Harkunti.
Harkunti’s explanation is a direct response to Comfort’s comments in foreign media explaining that the Rp1 billion-worth project had only made it to the prototype level that was developed and funded by the US through the National Science Foundation. Louise Comfort said that the tsunami detection system project failed because of a feud between Indonesian agencies.
"To me, this is a tragedy for science, even more so, a tragedy for the Indonesian people as the residents of Sulawesi are discovering right now," said Louise Comfort in a news piece published by Times on September 30.
Harkunti, who’s involvement in the project was mainly to develop a social networking system and land-communication network for a tsunami evacuation, said that she was not directly involved in the submerged sensors but has the capacity to identify the problem.
The points Harkunti highlighted are:
1. The project that was handled together with Louise Comfort is still a prototype and is far from being ready for a real-world test.
2. The components stated by Comfort are used to detect the changes in the water column that is a small part of Indonesia’s system of tsunami warnings. Harkunti thinks that Comfort may not fully-understand Indonesia’s tsunami and early warning system. “Even though I explained to her dozens of times,” said Harkunti.
3. Indonesia’s tsunami early warning system (PDT) has four steps that are acknowledged by countries located along the Indian Ocean such as the PDT1, PDT2 , PDT3, and PDT4 that intertwines with each other in providing data regarding a tsunami potential.
4. Harkunti said that the location of the early warning project that Comfort implied is the one located between Siberut and West Sumatra, which Harkunti said has been ineptly linked to the tsunami in Palu since both areas are distant apart. Surely, Comfort’s statement that the project “could have saved more people” would be confusing to readers since Comfort did not provide complete information regarding the project.
Despite not having completely read the letter of support from the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), Harkunti argues that the BPPT was kind enough to lend their research cable to support the ones that WHOI had, which is Comfort’s partner from the US in providing an OBU or ocean bottom unit sensor.
“Because of the nature of the research, BPPT’s researchers were similar to others who have participated in the research to help complete it and test it. But it turned out that the length of the cable needed to connect the OBU to land areas was not enough. I can’t understand why the WHOI team and Louise Comfort did not carefully calculate but included all of the components in their proposal to the US government that funded the research,” said Harkunti.
KHORY ALFARIZI | ANDITA RAHMA