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Opinion: Jakarta's vulnerability to global warming

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  • Harry Surjadi
    The Jakarta Post, 28 Apr 2007: Jakarta s vulnerability to global warming Deden Rukmana, Jakarta The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 28, 2007
      The Jakarta Post, 28 Apr 2007:
      Jakarta's vulnerability to global warming
      Deden Rukmana, Jakarta

      The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
      presented a new report on global warming earlier this month. The
      report was prepared by more than 200 scientists and was endorsed by
      officials from more than 120 countries.

      The world is irrefutably warming and the panel predicted a rise of
      between one and three degrees Celsius over the next century, which
      could lead to the inundation of coasts and islands inhabited by
      millions of people all over the world, including Jakarta.

      Sea-level rise is not the only threat to the vulnerability of Jakarta
      due to climate change. February's floods in Jakarta, which inundated
      more than 70 percent of Jakarta and sent about 450,000 fleeing from
      their homes is strong evidence that torrential rain could be a
      serious threat for the city.

      Bigger storms make Jakarta even more vulnerable because the city lies
      in the lowlands, near the sea, and is crossed by 13 rivers flowing
      down from the south.

      The vulnerability of Jakarta will be even worse if the exploitation
      of groundwater and the conversion of water catchment areas into urban
      settlements in the city's peripheral areas can not be reduced.

      Both factors contribute to issue of land subsidence, which was first
      identified by researchers when the Sarinah bridge at Jl. M.H. Thamrin
      cracked in 1978.

      Since then, land subsidence abuse Jakarta has been increasing over
      the years, particularly in the northern part of the city.

      The Jakarta Mining Agency reported variances over a 12 year period,
      from 1993 to 2005 -- with the largest rate of land subsidence
      occurred in Central Jakarta.

      It was reported the above sea-level height of Central Jakarta was
      3.42 meters in 1993. This dropped by 102 cm in 2005.

      The height of North Jakarta was only 1.46 meters above sea level in
      2005, dropping from 2.03m in 1993.

      During the same period, West Jakarta, East Jakarta and South Jakarta
      have sunk by 2.11, 11.45 and 28.46 centimeters respectively.

      According to the Jakarta Mining Agency, the main causes of the land
      subsidence in Jakarta include the construction of new buildings,
      particularly high-rise towers, and water usage.

      Due to limited piped water supply, the majority of the population
      relies on groundwater for their water needs.

      The Jakarta Mining Agency estimated about 66,000 gallons of water is
      extracted from the Jakarta's aquifer every year. Such intensive
      groundwater withdrawal accelerates the problem.

      Land subsidence has also been exacerbated by the decreasing water
      catchment areas both in Jakarta and its outskirts. This will reduce
      the volume of water that sinks into the ground for recharging the

      The mismatch between the intensive groundwater withdrawal and
      recharge of groundwater is the major cause of land subsidence.

      Jakarta is just one of many coastal cities in the world that needs to
      adapt to survive global warming.

      Some major coastal cities have taken action to mitigate the impact of
      sea-level rise. The most commonly used action is building hard
      structure such as dikes and sea walls such as in the Netherlands,
      London and Beijing.

      The Netherlands is preparing to raise the North Sea defenses from and
      London is preparing to add 12 inches of protection on top of the
      existing floodgates to keep ocean-storm surges from flooding the

      Jakarta needs not only to protect the city from sea-level rise but
      also from the land subsidence.

      In addition to building dikes and sea walls, Jakarta needs to reduce
      significantly the use of groundwater as its main source of water for

      As many water reservoirs as possible need to be built to conserve the

      The conversion of land use in water catchment areas also needs to be
      prevented. Water catchment areas should be protected.

      Such protection will allow more water to sink into the ground and
      recharge the groundwater. Reducing the use of groundwater and
      protecting water catchment areas will decelerate the land subsidence
      and decrease the vulnerability of Jakarta.

      The writer is an assistant professor of urban studies at Savannah
      State University in the U.S. He can be reached at
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