|Life in Indonesia’s sinking capital|
|Jakarta suffers subsidence rates of up to 17cm a year in some areas, threatening the homes of 4.5 million people.Jack Hewson|
|Jakarta, Indonesia – Benjol stirs four blackened tuns of green mussels cooking by the banks of Jakarta’s east flood canal. He kicks over one of the vats – cut from a used oil drum – and the steaming content pours onto the concrete. Female workers pick over the catch, collecting mussels into a grubby sieve.The livelihoods of squatter fishermen such as Benjol – who like many Indonesians uses just one name – have faced multiple threats over the past three decades.Land reclamations in the 1980s and ’90s – primarily for high-end housing developments – have pushed them from their original settlements, and Jakarta Bay’s toxic water containing dangerous levels of lead and mercury has prompted the city administration to ban mussel cultivation on public health grounds.
To make matters worse, the land on which they live is sinking into the sea.
“We don’t want to move from here,” Benjol says, but his community may have no choice. Straddling north Jakarta’s flood defences, they are vulnerable to the high tides that last year breached the dyke, exacerbating the annual wet season floods.
North Jakarta suffers subsidence rates of up to 17cm a year in some areas – caused by the excessive extraction of ground water from the soft soil on which the city is built – meaning whole neighbourhoods will be several metres underwater by 2030. The homes of 4.5 million people are threatened with permanent inundation.
To avert this disaster, Indonesia’s outgoing government last month rushed to commence the construction of its futuristic $40bn “giant seawall” development, otherwise known as the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD).
Comprised of a 25km dyke that will close the bay of Jakarta and 17 man-made islands shaped into a “giant garuda” – a mythical bird used as Indonesia’s national symbol – the development is set to become one of the world’s largest infrastructure projects.
Its first phase of strengthening the city’s existing defences began last month, and the sealing off of Jakarta bay is expected to be completed by 2022.
To bankroll the scheme, predominantly mid and high-end housing developments will be sold off; eventually housing up to 1.5 million people on the giant garuda. The ambitions for the development cannot be understated – with the NCICD master plan pushing for Indonesia’s “seat of government” to be relocated from central Jakarta to the new city.
However, the plans have drawn significant criticism, with detractors claiming the seawall is a bogus solution that will once more displace traditional fishermen and other low-income groups from their communities.
The People’s Coalition for Fisheries Justice Indonesia (KIARA) says thousands of people such as Benjol will be removed from their homes to make way for what they see as just another luxury housing development.
The government has defended the initiative, saying 17 percent of the new development will be devoted to social housing, and will give fishermen closer access to the cleaner waters 6km out to sea – where the seawall is to be constructed.
The likelihood of the city’s poorest being housed on the giant garuda seems limited, but it’s a social injustice most Jakartans are likely to forgive if they can be assured that the seawall will prevent the capital from sliding into the sea.
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Koalisi Rakyat untuk Keadilan Perikanan (KIARA) adalah organisasi non-pemerintah yang berdiri pada tanggal 6 april 2003. Organisasi nirlaba ini diinisiasi oleh WALHI, Bina Desa, JALA (Jaringan Advokasi untuk Nelayan Sumatera Utara), Federasi Serikat Nelayan Nusantara (FSNN), dan individu-individu yang menaruh perhatian terhadap isu kelautan dan perikanan.