If things go the present way, Jakarta might not be Indonesia’s capital for long. Its location could be moved to the island of Borneo. Relocating the country’s administrative and political heart may be an act of national preservation, but it effectively sounds the death-knell for Jakarta where many of the city’s 10 million residents have little means of escape. For years, flooding is common during the tropical nation’s wet season and this is getting worse as sea levels rise due to global warming.
TORRENTIAL RAIN MAKE MILLIONS VULNERABLE
Flooding is common in Indonesia, especially during the rainy season that runs from October to April. Sitting on swampy land, the Java Sea lapping against it, and 13 rivers running through it, Jakarta doesn’t have a piped water system in its northern reaches, so local industry and millions of residents tap into its aquifers. This rampant groundwater extraction causes land subsidence, which is making Jakarta sink by as much as 10 inches a year in some areas. Today some parts of it sit some four metres below sea level, irrevocably changing the landscape, and leaving millions vulnerable to natural disasters.
JAKARTA IS DISAPPEARING INTO GROUND
It’s already happening – North Jakarta has sunk 2.5m in 10 years and is continuing to sink by as much as 25cm a year in some parts, which is more than double the global average for coastal megacities. Jakarta is sinking by an average of 1-15cm a year and almost half the city now sits below sea level. Researchers say that if this goes unchecked, parts of Jakarta could be entirely submerged by 2050 as each year parts of this massive city is literally disappearing into the ground.
NORTH JAKARTA WORST HIT
The impact of sinking is most apparent in North Jakarta. North Jakarta has historically been a port city and even today it houses one of Indonesia’s busiest sea ports, Tanjung Priok. Its strategic location where the Ciliwung river flows into the Java Sea was one of the reasons why Dutch colonists chose to make it their bustling hub in the 17th Century. Today 1.8 million people live in the municipality, a curious mixture of fading port businesses, poor coastal communities and a substantial population of wealthy Chinese Indonesians. The rest of Jakarta is also sinking. In West Jakarta, the ground is sinking by as much as 15cm annually, by 10cm annually in the east, 2cm in Central Jakarta and just 1cm in South Jakarta.
“SEA VIEW” HOMES HAVE BECOME “WALL” VIEW HOMES
Residents who once had a sea view now see only a dull grey dyke, a wall built and rebuilt in a valiant attempt to keep seawater out. None of this has deterred the property developers. More and more luxury apartments dot the North Jakarta skyline regardless of the risks even as environmentalists have urged the government to halt further development here.
HUMAN ACTIONS RESPONSIBLE FOR “SINKING” JAKARTA
In the city of Jakarta, the foundations have been further stressed by unchecked development, heavy traffic, and poor urban planning. The hub of Southeast Asia’s biggest economy has seen breakneck development over the years. New buildings and skyscrapers are compressing the ground, which aggravates its sinking problem.
But the biggest culprit is excessive groundwater extraction, and the city has no way to meet demand without it due to a lack of water-retention facilities or a comprehensive piping network.
MEGA ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS UNDERWAY TO SAVE JAKARTA
A scheme to construct artificial islands in Jakarta’s bay, which would act as a buffer against the Java Sea, as well as a vast coastal wall was approved. But there is no guarantee the estimated $40 billion project — which has been beset by years of delays — would solve the city’s sinking woes. Building barriers has been tried before. A concrete wall was built along the shore in Rasdi’s district and other high-risk neighbourhoods. But they have cracked and show signs of sinking already. Water seeps through them, soaking the maze of narrow streets and shacks in the city’s poorest neighbourhoods.
VENICE, MUMBAI, SHANGHAI, NEW ORLEANS & BANGKOK COULD BE FUTURE “SINKING” CITIES
Coastal cities across the world are affected because of rising sea levels caused by climate change. Increased sea levels occur because of thermal expansion – the water expanding because of extra heat – and the melting of polar ice. Cities from Venice and Mumbai, Shanghai to New Orleans and Bangkok are also at risk. Decades of uncontrolled and excessive depletion of groundwater reserves, rising sea-levels, and increasingly volatile weather patterns spell doom for coastal cities.