Indonesia Announces Multi-Billion Dollar Plan To Save Jakarta From Sinking

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Rising sea levels are a growing worry for many coastal cities around the world. While all are expected to be impacted, some like Indonesia's capital Jakarta, are more vulnerable. Located in the northwest coast of the Java Sea, Southeast Asia's most populous city lies on a low flat basin at the mouth of the Ciliwung River on the Jakarta Bay. Though its average elevation is 8-meters (26 feet), 40% of the city lies below sea level and is sinking by as much as six inches, annually. Experts speculate that if this pace continues, much of northern Jakarta will be underwater by 2030.

The problem is exacerbated by the proliferation of boreholes that are being constructed to extract drinking water from underground. This has caused the soft clay delta soil to compact in certain areas of the city and help accelerate its sinking. If that is not bad enough, the flooding triggered by the overflowing Ciliwung and the smaller Pesanggrahan and Sunter rivers during the monsoon season, forces tens of thousands of shanty dwellers out of their homes annually.

While these issues have been known for some time, a 2007 flood that breached the city's existing sea wall for the first time brought about a new sense of urgency. After many years of planning and deliberation, in October 2014, Indonesian officials announced a multi-billion dollar project that they believe will save the city from disappearing.

The first priority will be to strengthen the existing sea wall around the northern part of the city. However, since it was constructed to withstand much lower water levels, this will provide the area's four million inhabitants only a temporary respite against the rising seas. The permanent solution is a more ambitious, multi-decade project, that entails building a 21-mile long wall and 17 artificial islands that are designed to shield the city from the rising sea levels. In addition to protecting Jakarta, the islands will also have housing and office space for up to a million people, a big help for the overcrowded city of nine million residents.

Also included in the plans is a massive reservoir that will be situated between the islands and the sea wall to absorb the runoff water from the rivers during the monsoon season and put an end to the annual flooding. Massive infrastructure upgrades like new pipes for drinking water, will alleviate the need for boreholes and prevent the ground from collapsing further.

Though the plan sounds perfect on paper, there are many hurdles that need to be overcome before it becomes a reality. The biggest issue of course is whether the country can afford the cost, which is expected to be about $40 billion USD over 20 years. Then there is the logistical challenge of building infrastructure in a densely populated city like Jakarta, given that relocation of residents could be extremely expensive and also, controversial. Even if these issues can be solved, there is still the technical challenge of gathering the large amount of soil that will be required to build the islands. Experts believe that it may be a hard feat to pull off even if the project engineers can get access to all the dredging vessels in the world.

Whether the giant wall and the islands, that will form the shape of a Garuda – the mythical bird that is Indonesia’s national symbol - will ever be built, remains to be seen. But the fact that the government has even come up with a plan is commendable, given that officials in other vulnerable cities like Bangkok, Dhaka and Mumbai, have not even begun to address the issue.

Resources: thenational.ae.com,fastcoexist.com

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287 Comments
  • willian
    willianThursday, June 2, 2016 at 10:40 am
    craig 1.because of the sea levels growing,it lies on low flat basin,40% of city is below sea level 2.soft clay delta was sinking,strengthen sea wall,build a massive reservoir 3.the cost,logistical challlenge,relocating the residents,
    • pk123
      pk123Thursday, June 2, 2016 at 10:40 am
      PAUL KELLIKER........... the reason Jakarta might sink in 2030 is because they are lower then sea level and the sea level keeps on rising and if it continues at this rate then
      • babyfacetay
        babyfacetayThursday, June 2, 2016 at 10:39 am
        tsmith 1.) The reason that Jakarta is vulnerable to sinking is that the city was built on low flat basin at the mouth of the Ciliwong River on Jakarta Bay. The other factors helping the issue is that 40% of the city lies below sea level and is sinking about six inches annually. 2.) The city is slowly sinking which caused the government to act and think of a solution. They came up with strengthening the existing sea wall around the northern part of the city. Then the government would build 21-mile long wall and 17 artificial islands that would shield the city from rising sea levels. The islands would also have housing and office space for up to a million people. 3.) Some hurdles that the government would face with the plan is that it would cost a lot of money. Also it would be to find the right amount of soil needed to make the 17 artificial islands. 0 Reply
        • wolfthe1
          wolfthe1Thursday, June 2, 2016 at 10:38 am
          noble 1. the city is sinking because the sea level is rising and 40% of the city is below sea level 2. the government plan to build a big wall to stop the water 3. the problems are do they have the money and then building the wall and finally how much soil will need challenge I think the biggest problem is how much money it will cost if other countries do not help they might not be able to start making the wall at all
          • cola12
            cola12Thursday, June 2, 2016 at 10:38 am
            A.F. 1.Jakarta is vulnerable to sinking because it lies below the the sea level.Other factors that help the issue are that their trying to build islands to shield the land from rising water levels and their strengthening the sea wall to absorb the run off water.
            • carmelina_cg
              carmelina_cgThursday, June 2, 2016 at 10:35 am
              #1. low basin #2.the city wanted to take over the government. #3.they don't want to take care of the govertment they just want to run it.
              • savagesabic
                savagesabicThursday, June 2, 2016 at 10:35 am
                1~ The reason Jakarta vulnerale to sinking is the flooding ,sea level rising ,subsidence decreasing,proliferation of borehole. 2~ The city is slowly sinking which caused the government to take action. They came up with strengthening the existing sea wall around the northern part of the city. 3~The cost is too high for the government, he was shocked at the government wanting to come in on the action
                • whynot_jessica
                  whynot_jessicaThursday, June 2, 2016 at 10:34 am
                  1. the city was built on a low basin 2. the city is slowly sinking 3. it would cost a lot of money and it would be to find the right amount of soil needed
                  • miller2121
                    miller2121Thursday, June 2, 2016 at 10:34 am
                    1. the resin its sinking is because the sea level is rising and its rising 6 inches on average and the city was built on a low surface 40 percent of the city is under water. 2.they want them to take action because they need a giant wall to protect them from the water 3.they cant even drive cars or anything they have to row boats down the street. because the government made a really good idea
                    • sierra_lee03
                      sierra_lee03Thursday, June 2, 2016 at 10:33 am
                      1. Jakarta is vulnerable to sinking because it is located in the northwest coast of the Java Sea and it also lies on a low flat basin at the mouth of the Ciliwung River on the Jakarta Bay making Jakarta get flooded because of the rising sea level. 2. The government wanted to help the city not drown in water so they are trying to strengthen the existing sea wall around the northern part of the city. 3.The biggest issue of course is whether the country can afford the cost, which is expected to be about $40 billion USD over 20 years. Also there is still the technical challenge of gathering the large amount of soil that will be required to build the islands. Not only that but the cities are very populated. Critical thinking: I think the biggest hurdle/problem is the amount of money they will need to get or spend because they cannot afford the cost. -Sierra Lee