Indonesian gov’t plans land reclamation project to protect Jakarta from rising sea levels

World Today

One of Asia’s megacities: Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta faces a dual threat: rapid urban development and rising sea water, and the government has launched a massive program to save it. CCTV’s Andy Saputra reported this story from Jakarta.

64-year-old Fisherman Inang Kurniawansyah has been living from the sea all of his life.

Like hundreds of thousands of fisherman in Jakarta, this means that he has to contend with tidal floods, flooding caused by the ocean tide.

This is a problem that is particularly bad for Jakarta which is located below sea level.

“I’m losing money every time there’s the tidal flood, customers stayed away during those times. They’re worried that the fish is contaminated with the muddy waters,” Kurniawansyah said.

Jakarta is one of the world’s megacities at high risk from rising sea levels, because parts of the metropolis of almost 30 million people are sinking on average of 3 inches per year and in some parts.

The city has sunk a little more than 3 feet in the last 20 years, that is as high as a two story building.

“When we look at this problem, then of course if we can just make it simple, there are 2 decisions, deal with it or do nothing. What are the consequences of do nothing, we have already calculated, we have to move from that area, that part of Jakarta, maybe about 4 million people and then let the city sink over there that is if we don’t do anything,” Robert Sianipar, Indonesia Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs said. “We know also if we don’t do anything within 2025 to 2030 then the sea water level will be the same height as the river’s water that means that the seawater will be rushing into the river not the river dumping into the sea.”

The government’s solution: a $40 billion land-reclamation project. The Giant Sea Wall project includes a more than 45-mile sea wall, a toll road to help Jakarta’s notorious traffic, a chain of artificial islands, a lagoon about the size of Manhattan and a giant offshore barrier island in the shape of the national symbol, the mythical bird Garuda.

The great wall of Jakarta, upon completion, will barricade the city from the rising tide of the ocean and prevent the city from sinking under its own weight.

The project’s challenges are enormous, social problems from fishermen who are worried that the wall will block their access to the sea, environmental problems and Indonesia’s systemic corruption is a major concern.

“The complexity is that this infrastructure is being realized in one of the biggest cities in the world where you have a lot of vested interest and a lot of interest competing with each other,” Ad Sannen, Consultant for National Capital Integrated Coastal Development said. “Within that complex setting you have to be able to build it up in stages so that it is acceptable to the different group of stakeholders, i think that is the most complex challenge that we ever have.”