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Why is Jakarta Sinking? And What This Means for All of Us.

A decades-old problem with subsidence and climate change has caused almost half of Jakarta to sit beneath the sea level.

Early this year, Jakarta was hit by flash flood. At least 60 people died, and more than 170,000 had to be evacuated

Source: Tom Fisk [8]


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Jakarta - In 2019, President Joko Widodo announced that Indonesia will relocate its capital city to the island of Borneo, in no small part due to its massive environmental issues.


According to BBC, Jakarta is the fastest-sinking city in the world [1]. A decades-old problem with subsidence and climate change has caused almost half of Jakarta to sit beneath the sea level. At the current speed, models predict that much of this enormous city could be underwater by 2050.


But before that happens, Jakarta must first battle another issue. Subsidence and climate change have also worsened what has always been Jakarta's perennial problem—floodings.


Subsidence and climate change have also worsened what has always been Jakarta's perennial problem—floodings.

With only a quarter of Jakarta's population having access to a piped water system, many people have to rely on groundwater [2]. But years of excessive groundwater extractions have triggered widespread subsidence, with some parts in North Jakarta sinking as much as 25cm each year [1]. As a result, many buildings are either damaged, on the verge of collapsing or are easily inundated by intense rainfalls.


Adding to that is the threat of extreme weather.


Floods in Jakarta are often caused by storm surges and heavy rainfalls from annual cyclones [3]. Early this year, the city was hit by flash floods following torrential rains. At least 60 people died, and more than 170,000 people had to be evacuated [4]. Even the domestic Halim Perdanakusuma Airport was shut down.


Source: The Jakarta Post [5]


The problem is, climate change is going to compound their intensity along with their catastrophic impacts, especially for those who are in the low-income bracket since the majority of them live near rivers [6]. According to a World Bank study, 20% of the annual 9 million tonnes of plastic waste that Indonesia generates ultimately ends up in its rivers, increasing flood risks as drainage systems get clogged [7].


According to a World Bank study, 20% of the annual 9 million tonnes of plastic waste that Indonesia generates ultimately ends up in its rivers, increasing flood risks as drainage systems get clogged.

Uncontrolled physical expansion is likely to aggravate this [4]. Massive population growth has driven more land to be converted for urban use, making the city more vulnerable to floodings over the years as the trees that once could provide a natural defence against it are gone. Worse, much of the land surface in Jakarta is covered with concrete [3]. This creates more drainage problems as its impermeable nature prevents water from naturally seeping into the ground, making floodings even more likely.


But the most devastating impact would be how waste deposition from floods can become a breeding ground for diseases, including skin infections and diarrhea, which can easily spread and attack anyone, especially children under the age of 5 [6].


The net effect of this is that many lives will be jeopardized. But low-income families will be hit the hardest by higher flood risks as they may lose their homes, jobs, loved ones and even their own lives as they may not be able to afford treatment if they fall ill.


What the future holds for Jakarta remains a mystery. But what is certain: a last-minute action won't be enough. Everyone must be willing to take action to save their own future and only then can Jakarta see a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Sources:

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44636934

[2] https://www.wired.com/story/jakarta-is-sinking/

[3] https://www.wired.co.uk/article/jakarta-sinking

[4] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/jakarta-fastest-sinking-city-in-the-world-floods-challenge-river-12237202

[5] https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/01/01/not-ordinary-rain-worst-rainfall-in-over-decade-causes-massive-floods-in-jakarta.html

[6] https://thediplomat.com/2014/05/flooding-and-jakartas-urban-poor/

[7] https://ipen.org/sites/default/files/documents/indonesia-egg-report-v1_9-web.pdf


Photo(s):

[8] https://www.pexels.com/photo/city-landscape-nature-water-3574602/


#indonesia #jakarta #environment #flooding #climatechange #subsidence #plasticwaste

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