Mount Merapi – literally “fire mountain” in Javanese – has lived up to its name for the last 10,000 years when it was formed, as only in the last 100 years alone, it has accounted for 24 eruptive episodes and it is estimated to have claimed well over 130,000 casualties since 1800. In its last eruption, 356 people died and 350,000 people were evacuated. Mount Merapi is known to be one of the most dangerous and active volcanoes in in the world. Notwithstanding, over one million people live near the imposing volcano and some villages are located only a staggering 2kms away from its summit.
This normalisation of life after frequent periodical eruptions and the proximity of villages to a very dangerous volcano could be explained by the many benefits it brings to the communities that have made this land their home.
Periodical ash fall makes this land very fertile and crop production is significantly better the closer to the volcano. It is an interesting fact that although volcanic soils cover just one per cent of the Earth’s land surface, it supports roughly ten per cent of its population.
After the 2010 eruption, many farmers on the southern slopes of Merapi turned away from farming – in the villages that were destroyed by pyroclastic flows – and took on sand and rock mining which is possibly a more lucrative activity. Some miners earn 50,000 –100,000 rupiah (US$5 –10) per day filling up trucks with sand that is used mainly for construction.
Finally, tourism is also an important industry. There are mainly two types of travel activities dependant on Merapi in two different areas; in the North slopes, between mount Merapi and mount Merbabu, near the village of New Selo; and in the exclusion zone in the south, where villages such as Kinhrejo and Kepuharjo were destroyed in the 2010’s eruption. The start of the climb to the peak of mount Merapi is in New Selo, in the north side of the mountain. In the south, tourists are taken in Jeeps to visit the exclusion zone and the villages that were destroyed in the 2010’s eruption.