The death toll in Java, Indonesia's most populated island, has reached 107 after torrential rains led to flooding and deadly landslides, the Japan Economic Newswire has reported. Earlier reports put the toll of dead and missing as high as 130, and Chinese state-run media put the death toll above 150.
In addition to the human toll, 1,600 homes have been destroyed or heavily damaged, according to The German Press Agency. Many remain missing, and disease outbreaks are becoming a problem in temporary relief shelters.
The root cause of devastating floods like these, besides torrential rains, is years of deforestation. Without trees, the soil washes off easily, leading to deadly landslides.
Deforestation on Indonesian islands is a growing problem, with the biodiesel boom in Europe one driving force, as natives clear rain forest for palm oil plantations. Deforestation in Indonesia makes it the third-greatest source of greenhouse gases, behind both China and the United States, where emissions are due primarily to industrial and transportation pollution, rather than deforestation.
Global warming, incidentally, is expected to increase the incidence of severe flooding, according to the United Nations.
These same issues can have more moderate effects closer to home. Many communities facing fast-paced suburban development have found that the clearing and paving of land causes severe drainage issues, leading to flooded roads and basements, degraded streams and the need for municipal investment in infrastructure, which drives up local taxes.
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