That sinking feeling: Saving Jakarta from going under

That sinking feeling: Saving Jakarta from going under KuiperCompagnons
09 Feb
2016
Can a vast waterfront development save Jakarta from the many perils of subsidence?

Jakarta is sinking. It doesn’t perhaps gain the same international exposure as a city such as Venice, but nevertheless, the ‘Big Durian’ – as the Indonesian capital is locally known – is subsiding at a rate of around ten centimetres per year, although it varies wildly across the city.

‘Subsidence in coastal areas of Jakarta is mostly caused by excessive groundwater extraction,’ explains Dr Hasanuddin Abidin, from the Bandung Institute of Technology. While Jakarta faces the same threat from rising sea levels as much of the rest of the low-lying world, rising demand from over ten million thirsty residents means the city’s water supply is reliant on the extraction of groundwater – hence, the dramatic rate of subsidence. Flooding by the encroaching tides, as well as the city’s 13 rivers, is now putting the lives of millions of people at risk. ‘Relatively significant coastal subsidence in Jakarta is disastrous,’ continues Abidin, ‘since during high tides they create coastal flooding in the relatively dense population coastal areas of Jakarta. The government has erected sea dykes along the coast but, since the dykes keep subsiding, during high tides the coastal flooding is still happening.’

An ambitious project is underway to drain the city’s rivers into a harbour-side freshwater retention lake, where an enclosing seawall keeps the water level below that of the sea. ‘At first glance, you would think this seawall is to keep the sea out of the city,’ says Gijs van den Boomen, managing director of KuiperCompagnons, who developed the urban design plan for the waterfront. ‘This is true, but there’s a lot more to it than that.’ Instead, the lake allows the rivers to empty naturally, preventing water from backing up into the city. Furthermore, wastewater treatment can purify the river water and turn it into an acceptable source of drinking water. ‘If we don’t stop the groundwater extraction by providing a piped water supply, the subsidence will continue,’ says Van den Boomen. ‘It’s not a sustainable solution. So, included in the plan is the creation of a piped water supply network.’

garudaFrom the air the development will resemble the infamous Indonesian ‘Garuda’  (Image: KuiperCompagnons)

Officially entitled the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development, the project more commonly goes by the name ‘Great Garuda’, due to the construction taking the shape of the Garuda bird – the national symbol of Indonesia. ‘It’s very important to stress that the design of the new waterfront city is not the goal in itself, although it is helping to create enthusiasm,’ says Van den Boomen. ‘This plan is not about shiny glass towers and a new central business district. It uses those ingredients as a means to an end to realise a new future for Jakarta. Four and a half million people are at stake here – their lives, livelihoods, and their future. This is what we call the Robin Hood design principle: we build for the rich to save the poor.’

This article was published in the February 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Water

Ongoing restoration projects are breathing new life into Florida’s Everglades

Cities

Despite protests, an experimental pedestrianisation system is proving to be…

Mapping

National Archives map historian, Rose Mitchell, highlights some of the…

Water

An expedition into the Jordanian desert is helping teachers and…

Mountains

Trivia fans take note, Mount Hope in the British Antarctic…

Water

An enormous hydropower development in Ethiopia is expected to put…

Mapping

From nuclear warnings to whether your favourite band will ‘make…

Mapping

New maps of global reptile distribution reveal significant gaps in…

Forests

Indigenous conservation schemes in Peru can be more effective than…

Mapping

How are the EU member nations faring in the fight…

Mapping

Violence against women violates human rights, and the lack of…

Cities

Deadly heat waves could become more frequent in cities thanks…

Mapping

These 13 poignant infographics are in the running for the…

Mapping

Sometimes referred to as the fourth dimension, time has a…

Forests

A global, citizen-led carbon sequestration scheme is aiming to combat…

Mountains

Among the Himalaya region, which along with most of the…

Cities

Beijing looks set to welcome to its streets an innovative…

Cities

The next step towards declaring London a National Park City…

Mapping

The spatial distribution of healthcare workers globally tells us a…

Forests

After an ‘unprecedented’ surge northwards into New Jersey, New York…