Asia Minute: Jakarta’s Sinking Fortunes

Dec 6, 2018

Jakarta skyline
Credit The Diary of a Hotel Addict / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr

Each week seems to produce more news about climate change. This week a United Nations report said global carbon emissions will rise by nearly 3-percent this year. Rising sea levels also continue around the world. And one major city in Southeast Asia faces a new urgency about flooding.

More than a quarter of Indonesia’s capital city will be under water in less than a decade if current trends continue. That’s the view of researchers from the Bandung Institute of Technology…one of the country’s leading scientific universities.

Sea level rise is one factor, but it’s not the main one.

The city is sinking, and scientists blame the overuse of ground water.

The Jakarta Post reports that only about 60-percent of the city uses water in pipes — due to a lack of infrastructure. The rest of Jakarta relies on groundwater — a dependence that comes with a cost.

When water is drawn out of the ground, the rock and sediment contract — making the land sink. The impact is dramatic: researchers say the northern part of the city has sunk more than 8 feet in the last ten years.

Another factor hurting drainage: a lack of green spaces — not enough parks and open areas. Concrete and asphalt prevent water from being absorbed into the ground.

These environmental challenges are complicated by sea level rise.

Jakarta on "Car Free Day"
Credit Gunawan Kartapranata / Wikimedia Commons

The combination makes the city more vulnerable to tidal flooding.

Jakarta’s governor says his administration is aware of the issues — while scientists producing the latest report say “significant measures” are needed to save the city from flooding that will otherwise continue to worsen.