Changing climate, changing cities: Jakarta Is Sinking So Fast, It Could End Up Underwater in 10 YearsLeave a Comment
- Jakartans are digging illegal wells, drip by drip draining the underground aquifers on which the city rests — like deflating a giant cushion underneath it. About 40 percent of Jakarta now lies below sea level.
- And it has to deal with mounting threats from climate change which exacerbates scores of other ills— runaway development, a near-total lack of planning, next to no sewers and only a limited network of reliable, piped-in drinking water — all posing an imminent threat to the city’s survival.
- Hydrologists say the city has only a decade to halt its sinking. If it can’t, northern Jakarta, with its millions of residents, will end up underwater, along with much of the nation’s economy.
- The aquifers aren’t being replenished, despite heavy rains and the abundance of rivers, because more than 97 percent of Jakarta is now smothered by concrete and asphalt. Open fields that once absorbed rain have been paved over. Shores of mangroves that used to help relieve swollen rivers and canals during monsoons have been overtaken by shantytowns and apartment towers
…With climate change, the Java Sea is rising and weather here is becoming more extreme. Earlier this month another freakish storm briefly turned Jakarta’s streets into rivers and brought this vast area of nearly 30 million residents to a virtual halt….But global warming turned out not to be the only culprit behind the historic floods that overran Rasdiono’s bodega and much of the rest of Jakarta in 2007. The problem, it turned out, was that the city itself is sinking.
In fact, Jakarta is sinking faster than any other big city on the planet, faster, even, than climate change is causing the sea to rise — so surreally fast that rivers sometimes flow upstream, ordinary rains regularly swamp neighborhoods and buildings slowly disappear underground, swallowed by the earth. The main cause: Jakartans are digging illegal wells, drip by drip draining the underground aquifers on which the city rests — like deflating a giant cushion underneath it. About 40 percent of Jakarta now lies below sea level.
Coastal districts, like Muara Baru, near the Blessed Bodega, have sunk as much as 14 feet in recent years….
…Climate change acts here as it does elsewhere, exacerbating scores of other ills. And in Jakarta’s case, a tsunami of human-made troubles — runaway development, a near-total lack of planning, next to no sewers and only a limited network of reliable, piped-in drinking water — poses an imminent threat to the city’s survival….
…The aquifers aren’t being replenished, despite heavy rains and the abundance of rivers, because more than 97 percent of Jakarta is now smothered by concrete and asphalt. Open fields that once absorbed rain have been paved over. Shores of mangroves that used to help relieve swollen rivers and canals during monsoons have been overtaken by shantytowns and apartment towers.
There is always tension between immediate needs and long-term plans. It’s a similar story in other sinking giants like Mexico City. Here, all of the construction, combined with the draining of the aquifers, is causing the rock and sediment on which Jakarta rests to pancake….
….JanJaap Brinkman, a hydrologist who for decades has been studying Jakarta for the Dutch water research institute Deltares, sympathizes with residents of communities like Akuarium and Tongkol. Eviction isn’t a cure-all, or even possible, he said, considering how many countless thousands of Jakartans now live atop the canals and rivers in informal developments. At the same time, Mr. Brinkman stressed, moving people is necessary, and bungled evictions squander a meager reservoir of good will and precious time.
“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.”
….The most ambitious move by the city is the construction of what’s called the Coastal Wall, now rising like a black cliff from Jakarta Bay. It’s a quasi-temporary barrier to hold back the rising sea and compensate for subsidence — built extra high because, like the rest of North Jakarta, it is expected to sink, too. With subsidence at the current rate, the Coastal Wall itself may be underwater by 2030.
….Tokyo was in a similar predicament after World War II, he likes to point out. It had sunk about 12 feet since 1900. But the city poured resources into new infrastructure and established stricter rules about development, and within a decade or two made itself a global model of urban innovation, better able to cope with the effects of climate change.
“Jakarta could become a 21st-century version of Tokyo in the 20th century, an example for urban redevelopment,” Irvan Pulungan, the climate change adviser to the city’s new governor, imagined.
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.”