Indonesia to move its capital city
Indonesia has announced its moving the country’s capital away from Jakarta, reportedly the fastest sinking city in the world. A 2018 report calculated parts of the city are sinking 25.4 centimetres a year, mainly because of the digging of illegal wells to access groundwater, since surface drinking water options are too polluted to be safe.
The Christian Aid report said because more than 97 percent of the city is covered in concrete, the groundwater isn’t replenished by rain and rivers. The city is also sinking because of the weight of its buildings. In addition, natural flood barriers like mangroves have been cut down to clear space for housing.
Researchers say large parts of the mega-city could be entirely submerged by 2050.
Indonesia’s Government hasn’t yet decided where the new capital will be, and that could take up to 10 years to finalise. State news agency Antara says a top contender could be Palangkaraya, hundreds of kilometres to the north-east in central Kalimantan - the part of Borneo that belongs to Indonesia. And not all locals there are thrilled at the prospect. One told the BBC: "I hope the city will develop and the education will become as good as in Jakarta. But all the land and forest that's empty space now will be used. Kalimantan is the lungs of the world, and I am worried, we will lose the forest we have left."
Announcing the move, Indonesian President Joko Widodo told local media “in Java (the island Jakarta’s on) the population is 57 percent of the total for Indonesia, or more than 140 million people, to the point that the ability to support this, whether in terms of the environment, water or traffic in the future, will no longer be possible so I decided to move outside Java.”
The idea of moving the capital has been floated several times since the country gained independence from the Dutch in 1945, yet no President has been able to achieve it. However now there is some urgency.
Writing in the Washington Post, John Englander, president of the International Sea Level Institute, says Jakarta is an extreme case, but it is by no means unique. “In the United States, major cities such as New Orleans and Norfolk are also subsiding, though not nearly as fast. Even still, all coastal cities must face up to the reality of rising seas. There is no time to waste in planning and adapting to this threat.
“Although Miami is often cited as the city most at risk, there are many highly vulnerable — and highly populous — cities around the world, including Mumbai and Calcutta, India; Shanghai; Lagos, Nigeria; Manila; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Bangkok; Copenhagen; Tokyo; London; Houston; and Tampa.
“In fact, thousands of coastal cities and rural communities globally are not only at risk, but already experience increased flooding during extreme high tides, often referred to as king tides.
“The swelling oceans demand that we start designing for and investing in the future now.”