Jakarta sinking rapidly, could end up underwater!

Jakarta sinking rapidly, could end up underwater!
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PC: New York Times

Jakarta: The rising climate change and its impact on planet is warming the earth’s climate, melting the ice, increasing the sea levels and slowly-slowly engulfing the land beneath it.

One such impact of climate change is observed in Indonesia where the Java sea used to be at a good distance and the people enjoyed the calming view of the sea but now the sea levels have reached closer only held by a weak wall which is threatening the residents.

A resident named Rasdiono, remembers how well he enjoyed the sea when it was at distant down the hill which now he says the sea never than before is coming closer.

Earlier this month a storm turned Jakarta’s streets into rivers halting 30 million residents in the area.

Irvan Pulungan, advisor to city’s governor and also a local climate researcher fears over the next century the sea level’s will rise up to three feet in the region and the temperatures will increase to several degrees which all together warns about the imminent threat to the region and the residents.

The past few events that occurred in Jakarta, the floods that brought disaster to the region turns out the city is sinking slowly.

The regular ordinary rains that are washing away Jakarta’s regions, earth quakes engulfing buildings inside, rivers overflowing, Jakarta is sinking rapidly than any other big city on the planet even faster than the climate change that is increasing the sea level.

Digging illegal wells, draining its region’s underground sources on which the city rests, Jakartan’s, without any doubts, are contributing towards sinking their own city where 40% of Jakarta now lies below the sea levels.

Other coastal districts, like Muara Baru, near the Blessed Bodega, have reportedly sunk to 14 feet in past years.

The lack of planning, no drinking water in the city, next to no sewers, all are human created troubles in Jakarta.

The underlying disputes between the communities in the city, distrust in Government, polluted air, sinking buildings, worst traffic jams, are all contributing towards the city’s sinking

“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,” as Sidney Jones, the director of the local Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, put it. “There is no trust.”

Experts fear this rising sea levels poses a huge threat to the city which will sink in a decade if nothing is done now. The communal objections between the communities, the barring of wholesale change and infrastructural revolution, Jakarta will not stay long enough to survive the rising Java sea and will eventually give in to the sea with its northern region that will soon submerge into the sea taking millions of lives and its nation’s economy under the water.

And then there is the climate change on the other hand which is also posing as a threat on the planet.

Spread along the northwest coast of Java, Jakarta has the world’s largest Muslim population. Earlier it was a trading port of the Hindu Sunda Kingdom before the local sultans over took in the 1527 which was named as Jayakarta.

A century later the area saw Dutch colonists arrival into the city who then established a base for the East India territories. The were responsible for laying out streets and canals to tackle the water pouring issue from the south, forests, mountains.

“Living here, we don’t have other places to go,” says Yudi and Titi, a young professional couple who made a rough trip into the city’s center, they add “Without cars, at least you can breathe for a few minutes.”

The most urgent problems are in North Jakarta are coastal mash-up of ports, nautically themed high-rises, aged fish markets, slums, power plants, malls and the congested remnants of the colonial Dutch settlement. Some of the world’s most polluted canals and rivers weave a spider’s web through out the area and this is where the city is sinking fastest.

The illegally dug wells by the Jakartan developers and others all due to inadequate clean water supplied to the population and that too at quite alarming prices is also loosening the earth’s hold in the region.

Nearly 97 percent of Jakarta is now built with concrete where no open area is left for observing the rain water and the aquifers are not replenished despite heavy rains and abundance of rivers.

Similar to sinking Mexico city, tensions between immediate needs and long-term plans prevail in Jakarta too.

With business booming in the region and foreigner’s arriving North Jakarta construction has skyrocketed.

Rural Indonesians are fleeing from Borneo the lowlands of Sumatra and Kalimantan as there being driven out by coal mines, tobacco farms.

Rainforests are burned to make way for palm oil fields and textile factories causing smoke
that is reaching as far as Malaysia all directly contributing to climate change.

Since these factories dump tons of waste and chemicals into waterways which directly contaminates the city’s drinking water supply.

The city needs to stop digging wells right away to halt the sinking and in order to do the that Jakarta must provide its residents piped in clean water and reliable sources to clear the waterways which are halted due to blockage of sewage and drains, and at most of the places no sewage system is provided.

Factories policing will be required as these dumps chemicals into the canals and rivers. New Houses must be built for displaced residents who don’t to move out in the first place.
That was before the bulldozers arrived. The Akuarium I found had been reduced to mounds of broken masonry and concrete.

“The government said the eviction was about cleaning the river, but I believe it was about politics and development,” Topaz, a resident of Akuarium told.

“I saw promotions for those towers that showed Akuarium turned into a park,” Topaz said.

Jakarta’s former governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, ordered the eviction who has tackled Jakarta’s several issues. His efforts to acquire water supply from the private companies failed immensely. But the former governor had formed a sanitation crew called Orange Army to remove sediment and garbage from rivers and canals. He also cleared out some of the kampungs that had obstructed waterways and these efforts did make a difference with the rain water drained within two hours.

Many residents opposed the governor’s efforts and attacked him regularly at Friday prayers which led to lost of his re-election bid, and the so called Islamists exploited against him brought him up on charges of blasphemy. He is now serving two years in prison.

Speaking to another evicted settlement called Bukit Duri, Agus Fadilah, 34, who was a motorbike-taxi driver said “I was raised here, my job was here,” looking at the rubble what once used to be his house on the banks of the Ciliwung river one of the city’s main rivers.

He said, “I know why they did this.” “It had to do with the river. I know this was not legally our land. But it was my home,” he added.

Recently a district Judge ruled in the favour of Residents of Bukit Duri who filed a lawsuit against the government to protest the evictions.

Elisa Sutanudjaja, Kampung Advocate and also executive director at the Rujak Center for Urban Studies says, “It’s not that nobody should move.”

“These poor communities don’t all want to stay in place, but they do want to stay together and near their jobs, and they want legal status. “Mostly, they want to be consulted,” she said.

While Tongkol residents have installed their own septic tanks to fight the problem keeping the Ciliwung clean.

Kamil Muhammed a young architect from Architecture Sans Frontieres-Indonesia, has designed a low-cost homemade by concrete, bamboo and reused bricks. He says this is just a template for cheap do it yourself housing.

“We want to demonstrate to the government that kampungs can actually be beneficial to the river,” Kamil told.

JanJaap Brinkman, a hydrologist working since decades for the Dutch water research institute Deltares, says eviction is not the cure for residents of communities like Akuarium and Tongkol who live atop these canals and rivers illegally.

“We need big steps now,” he said. “If all the discussions get tied up with fishermen and development, there will eventually be a massive calamity and deaths and no choice but to give up on whole parts of Jakarta.”

Though the Politicians issue directions to developers prohibiting from digging wells, the enforcement is next to nil.

Referring to the Eastern Flood Channel, Mr. Brinkman said, “A few years ago this was solid waste.”

“This gate is nothing like it used to be,” Mr. Brinkman said. “You used to be able to walk across the water, it was so clogged with garbage and sediment.”

The temporary barrier what is called as coastal wall to hold back the rising Java sea, the Coastal Wall is expected to be underwater by 2030.

Even more alarming, Mr. Brinkman showed me one spot along the waterfront where the wall ends and all that holds back the sea is a low, crumbling concrete rampart. The water was only a couple of feet below the top when we peered over the embankment.

“If this wall breaks, there’s simply no holding back the Java Sea,” said Mr. Brinkman, gesturing from the rampart toward the city.

“Jakarta will flood all the way to the center of town, six kilometers from here. I could take you to 20 other places just like this ” says Mr Brinkman.

The Coastal Wall is an Indonesian project called National Capital Integrated Coastal Development program in collaboration with the Dutch government.

The officials plan to supplement the Coastal Wall with a second barrier, a Giant Sea Wall which would close Jakarta Bay entirely.

This would not just block the rising waters but it would also help in building new mega district and ring road which is a $40 billion development also a development for the real estate moguls and Dutch consultants designed in the shape of a garuda, the national bird of Indonesia which is now known as Jakarta’s biggest idea.

But the government has as of now stopped working on the mega district since environmentalists have cautioned if the rivers and canals are not cleaned up now then the area will turn into world’s largest cesspool.

The developments on islands inside the Bay is halted after enraged fishermen sued the builders claiming these constructed islands destroyed their traditional fishing grounds. At the same time, the islands had become tied up with the Great Garuda.

Officials, including Ahok, realized that a tax on the islands’ developers could help Indonesia pay for the giant dike, along with other costly initiatives to clear waterways and stop the sinking.

Ardhasena Sopalheluwakan a climate scientist puts the construction of the giant dike as “to give back part of North Jakarta to nature,” a plan to “reintroduce mangroves and rejuvenate some of the dozens of reservoirs that were actually part of old Jakarta.”

While Brinkman’s perspective is just “counteracting subsidence will account for 90 percent of what this city needs to do to deal with climate change.”

Referring to Tokyo which was also in a similar predicament sinking 12 feet since 1900 after World War II. He says but the city rose up again implementing stricter rules about developments and pouring resources into new infrastructure which turned out to be the global model of urban innovation.

“Jakarta could become a 21st-century version of Tokyo in the 20th century, an example for urban redevelopment,” as imagined by Irvan Pulungan, climate change adviser to the city’s new governor.

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.”

Like Tokyo half a century ago, Jakarta is at a turning point, he said: “Nature will no longer wait,” as published in New York Times.