The fears of Indonesia’s capital plunging into the sea are not subsiding. To the contrary, as reporting from the New York Times on Thursday finds, they are growing as fast as the city sinks.
Yes, Jakarta is not just at risk from the slow rise of the sea level due to climate change. It is also sinking at an unbelievable pace. While Venice drops by an estimated rate of 2mm per year, Jakarta is in a freefall of 25cm per year.
The city is falling “so surreally fast that rivers sometimes flow upstream, ordinary rains regularly swamp neighborhoods and buildings slowly disappear underground, swallowed by the earth,” the NYT writes.
The culprit: the illegal wells locals are digging, draining the very underground aquifers on which the city rests. Jakarta is ironically being overtaken by water because of the shortage of water supply to its residents.
As experts warn the city has only 10 years to stop the sinking, there is plenty of pessimism to go around.
“Nobody here believes in the greater good, because there is so much corruption, so much posturing about serving the public when what gets done only serves private interests,” Sidney Jones, the director of the local Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict was quoted as saying. “There is no trust.”
The Indonesian government has also recently backtracked on a massive bird-shaped seawall that would block off the entire Jakarta bay. The US$40 billion project has been scrapped, the Jakarta Post reported earlier this month, to be replaced with “minimalist” mitigation alternatives.
“Jakarta could become a 21st-century version of Tokyo in the 20th century, an example for urban redevelopment,” Irvan Pulungan, a climate change adviser to Jakarta’s new governor, was quoted by the NYT as saying.
But “a city that can’t deliver basic services is a failed city,” he added. ”On top of conventional issues like flooding and urbanization we now have climate change, tipping the scale. And at this rate, people will be fighting in the streets for increasingly limited resources like clean water and safe living spaces.”