Experts warn Jakarta could be submerged by 2050; Indonesia to make Borneo its capital, says Joko Widodo

Environmental experts warn that one third of Jakarta, Indonesia could be submerged by 2050 if current rates continue. Decades of uncontrolled and excessive depletion of groundwater reserves, rising sea-levels, and increasingly volatile weather patterns mean swathes of it have already started to disappear

Agence France-Presse August 17, 2019 23:43:17 IST
Experts warn Jakarta could be submerged by 2050; Indonesia to make Borneo its capital, says Joko Widodo
  • One of the fastest-sinking cities on earth, environmental experts warn that one third of Jakarta could be submerged by 2050

  • Existing environmental measures have had little impact, so the nation will have a new capital

  • Built in an earthquake zone, on swamplands, near the confluence of 13 rivers, the city's foundations have been further stressed by unchecked development

Jakarta: Time is running out for Jakarta. One of the fastest-sinking cities on earth, environmental experts warn that one third of it could be submerged by 2050 if current rates continue.

Decades of uncontrolled and excessive depletion of groundwater reserves, rising sea-levels, and increasingly volatile weather patterns mean swathes of it have already started to disappear.

Experts warn Jakarta could be submerged by 2050 Indonesia to make Borneo its capital says Joko Widodo

File image of a flooded street in Jakarta. Reuters

Existing environmental measures have had little impact, so authorities are taking drastic action: the nation will have a new capital.

Its location could be announced imminently, according to local reports. "The capital of our country will move to the island of Borneo," Indonesian leader Joko Widodo said on Twitter.

Relocating the country's administrative and political heart may be an act of national preservation, but it effectively sounds the death-knell for Jakarta where many of the city's 10 million residents have little means of escape. "When the floods came I used to tremble," food stall owner Rasdi told AFP.

"I nearly drowned back in 2007 -- all my belongings were swept away and I had to start over again," said from his home close to Jakarta's northern port, one of the worst affected by sinking ground.

Built in an earthquake zone, on swamplands, near the confluence of 13 rivers, the city's foundations have been further stressed by unchecked development, heavy traffic, and poor urban planning.

Millions vulnerable

Jakarta doesn't have a piped water system in its northern reaches, so local industry and millions of residents tap into its aquifers.

This rampant groundwater extraction causes land subsidence, which is making Jakarta sink by as much as 25 centimetres (10 inches) a year in some areas -- double the global average for major coastal cities.

Today some parts of it sit some four metres below sea level, irrevocably changing the landscape, and leaving millions vulnerable to natural disasters.

Flooding is common during the tropical nation's wet season and that is expected get worse as sea levels rise due to global warming.

The partly submerged skeleton of an abandoned mosque at the waterfront underscores the severity of the problem, while vast puddles scar the roads, and for some the ground floor of their homes is no longer habitable.

Murky green water flows along the floor of an abandoned building, while tiny shacks on stilts line the garbage-strewn waterfront. "You can see it with your own eyes," said Andri, a 42-year-old who liked many Indonesians goes by one name.

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