JAKARTA, the massive Indonesia capital, is home to some 10 million people and consistently ranked among the most populated cities in the world.
But if nothing is done about the megacity’s sinking problem, parts of the bustling metropolitan could be entirely submerged by 2050. And millions of people could lose their homes, their livelihoods, their lives.
A few cities in the world are sinking ten times faster than sea levels are rising, such as Venice, New Orleans, and Bangkok. But Jakarta’s sinking problem is a little different from those cities. In fact, the sprawling city is sinking even faster than climate change can cause sea levels to rise.
According to a BBC report, North Jakarta, which contains the entire coastal area within Jakarta Special District, has sunk 2.5 meters in 10 years and is continuing to sink by as much as 25 centimeters a year in some parts.
This is more than double the global average for coastal megacities and it affects its fishing ports, boatyards, markets, warehouses, fish farms, crowded slums, and even exclusive gated communities
The rest of Jakarta is sinking too, albeit at a lower rate of one to 15 centimeters a year. The ground is sinking by 10 centimeters annually in the east, two centimeters annually in Central Jakarta, and one centimeter in South Jakarta.
With the city literally disappearing into the ground, almost half the city now sits below sea level.
As such, Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced a plan to relocate the capital to a proposed location in the province of East Kalimantan straddling the two regions of Penajam Paser Utara and Kutai Kartanegara on Borneo island.
While supporters share Jokowi’s concerns over Jakarta’s fate, critics are more worried about how the move will affect the rainforest-covered Kalimantan. In recent years, the location has already lost half of its critically endangered orangutan population due to uncontrolled deforestation.
That having said, the transfer will not happen overnight. A mammoth and expensive undertaking projected to cost up to US$33 billion, it could possibly take around a decade.
Indonesia is not the first country in the region to see a change in its capital city. In 1945, Hanoi’s capital city of Hue moved to Hanoi when Ho Chi Minh declared independence in the city and the French colonial period came to an end.
In 2005, Myanmar’s relocated its capital city of Yangon to the largely empty city of Naypyidaw in the heartlands of the country.