Density has weighed down Indonesian capital of Jakarta so much that the government is shifting it to the island of Borneo. President Joko Widodo announced the decision on Twitter two days ago.
Jakarta is home to 10 million people and nearly three times that number live in the surrounding towns. The city has crumbled under the weight of so many people. Congestion has turned it into a city of traffic jams. According to the country’s Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, the annual economic loss due to traffic congestion in Jakarta is nearly 100 trillion rupiah ($10 billion).
But there is a bigger problem: Jakarta is sinking fast. The city is sinking by up to 15 cm a year and almost half the city now sits below sea level.
According to Heri Andreas, who has studied Jakarta’s land subsidence for the past 20 years at the Bandung Institute of Technology, by 2050 about 95 per cent of North Jakarta will be submerged.
Rising sea levels due to global warming impact all coastal cities but Jakarta has its own reason too. It is over-extraction of ground water which leaves the earth hollow. Only 60 per cent of Jakarta has piped-water service. The rest of the city relies on groundwater.
Over-development has led to illegal extraction of water. Last year in May, officials inspected 80 buildings in Central Jakarta’s Jalan Thamrin, a road lined with skyscrapers, shopping malls and hotels, and found that 33 buildings were extracting water illegally.
A quick-fix remedy is building of a seawall around the city. Indonesia started considering the project a decade ago. President Widodo told AFP last month that he wanted to see speedy construction of the wall.
However, a seawall may not be the best solution if steps are not taken to stop groundwater extraction. If the rate of sea level rise accelerates due to runaway glacial melting, the wall may not be tall enough for long.