Parts of Jakarta could be entirely submerged by 2050

Parts of Jakarta could be entirely submerged by 2050

Time is running out for the sinking capital of Indonesia amid calls for a new capital city.


Published: Sun 18 Aug 2019, 12:23 AM

One of the fastest-sinking cities on Earth, environmental experts warn that one third of it could be submerged by 2050 if current rates continue.
Decades of uncontrolled and excessive depletion of groundwater reserves, rising sea-levels, and increasingly volatile weather patterns mean swathes of it have already started to disappear.
Existing environmental measures have had little impact, so authorities are taking drastic action: the nation will have a new capital. Its location could be announced imminently, according to local reports. "The capital of our country will move to the island of Borneo," Indonesian leader Joko Widodo said on Twitter.
New capital
President Joko Widodo told members of parliament and top officials on the eve of Independence Day that the capital city is not only a symbol of national identity, but also a representation of its progress.
"I'm asking your blessing and support from all Indonesian people to move our national capital to the island of Borneo," Widodo said. "This is for the realisation of equality and economic justice, this is for the vision of forward Indonesia."
Indonesia's decades-long discussion about building a new capital on Borneo island inched forward in April when Widodo approved a plan for the capital to move from Jakarta on Java island, the nation's most populous.
He did not name a new location but a hilly area in East Kalimantan province on Borneo has often been rumored as a possible site.
Moving the capital to a safer, less congested location would cost up to $33 billion, according to planning minister Bambang Brodjonegoro. The price tag includes new government offices and homes for about 1.5 million civil servants expected to pack up and start moving in 2024.
Indonesia is not the first Southeast Asian country to move its capital.
In 2005, Myanmar's ruling generals moved abruptly to Naypyidaw, a town in remote hills some 320 km (200 miles) away from the colonial era capital, Yangon, and the occasional mass protests that erupted there.
In the 1990s, Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad built an administrative capital in Putrajaya, about 33 km from Kuala Lumpur, one of the mega-projects that helped to define his first stint in power.

Massive pollution
Prone to flooding and rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled ground water extraction, Jakarta is the archetypical Asian mega-city. It has been creaking under the weight of its dysfunction, causing massive pollution to rivers and contaminating the ground water that supplies the city. Congestion is estimated to cost the economy $6.5 billion a year.
Improving inadequate infrastructure in the Southeast Asia's largest economy has been Widodo's signature policy and helped him win a second term in April elections.
In an interview last month, Widodo reiterated that he wants to build a new capital, suggesting it should be outside Java, where 57% of the country's nearly 270 million people are concentrated. "We want to separate the capital, the centre of government and Jakarta as a business and economic center," he said, "We don't want all the money existing only in Java. We want it to be outside of Java as well." Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said a new capital would require an area of 30,000 to 40,000 hectares (about 74,000 to 99,000 acres) and a population of up to 1.5 million.
Jakarta counts 10 million people and swells to three times that number when counting those living in its greater metropolitan area.
No piped water system
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."When the floods came I used to tremble," food stall owner Rasdi said. "I nearly drowned back in 2007 - all my belongings were swept away and I had to start over again," said from his home close to Jakarta's northern port, one of the worst affected by sinking ground.
Built in an earthquake zone, on swamplands, near the confluence of 13 rivers, the city's foundations have been further stressed by unchecked development, heavy traffic, and poor urban planning. Jakarta doesn't have a piped water system in its northern reaches, so local industry and millions of residents tap into its aquifers.
Ground water
This rampant groundwater extraction causes land subsidence, which is making Jakarta sink by as much as 25 centimetres (10 inches) a year in some areas - double the global average for major coastal cities.
Today some parts of it sit some four metres below sea level, irrevocably changing the landscape, and leaving millions vulnerable to natural disasters. Flooding is common during the tropical nation's wet season and that is expected get worse as sea levels rise due to global warming.
The partly submerged skeleton of an abandoned mosque at the waterfront underscores the severity of the problem, while vast puddles scar the roads, and for some the ground floor of their homes is no longer habitable.
Murky green water flows along the floor of an abandoned building, while tiny shacks on stilts line the garbage-strewn waterfront.
"You can see it with your own eyes," said Andri, a 42-year-old who liked many Indonesians goes by one name. "When I was a kid I used to swim over there," he added, motioning off in the distance.
"Over time the water just kept getting higher and higher."
Artificial islands
Even as Widodo presses on with the plan for a 21st century capital in Borneo island, local authorities are desperately probing solutions for 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.
"Building walls is not a permanent solution," said Heri Andreas, an earth scientist at the Bandung Institute of Technology.
"We need to go to the next step and fix our water management."
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.

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