A city in crisis: can it be saved from the depths of the ocean?

Indonesia is one of the countries heavily impacted by rising sea-level, due to its geographic location and is at risk of losing its capital, Jakarta. A global increase of sea levels has drawn international attention, due to the serious impact it has on many countries. The land of Indonesia is made up of  palm-fringed tiny islets, to dense-jungle volcanoes reaching up from the Indo-Pacific sea waters.  It has over 17,000 islands that make up the earth’s largest archipelago.

Jakarta, a densely populated city with a population of 10.6 million people. A number that continues to grow, even though the city is sinking. Millions of people that live in the coastal zones, with a possibility of losing their homes. 

Jakarta at risk

Rising sea-levels is one of the results of climate change and global warming. This is due to temperature increase during warm or interglacial periods. This causes seawater to  expand and  ice in Antarctica, Greenland and the mountain glaciers of the planet to melt. 

Indonesia’s capital has already lost parts of the city, as some areas have sunk up to 4 metres since the first levelling surveys began in  1979. As sea-level rises, the city becomes more vulnerable to flooding, tsunamis and intense coastal storms, which are expected to increase because of climate change. 

Indonesia has already lost two small uninhabited islands in South Sumatra in 2020 as a consequence of the rise of sea-levels.  And the Indonesian Forum for Environment has claimed that more islands (some inhabited) will soon vanish if no efforts are made to prevent it. The residents of these islands claim that the government has not addressed the issue, and they are the ones who have taken action but it only provides a temporary solution.

In the past,  sea-level changes were linked to seasonal weather conditions. However in recent years seasonal weather is more complicated following climate change. The main cause  of the rising global mean and sea surface temperature is the increase of greenhouse gas concentration. As well as increase in sea levels by the thermosteric process that occurs in the ocean. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have made various statements regarding the increase of greenhouse gases – allocated 70% of the sea level rise to thermosteric processes and 30% to the melting of glacial ice. 

Global warming is the accumulation of greenhouse gases inside the atmosphere.  Thus leading to several  consequences that create concerns —increase of the earth’s mean surface, temperature and ocean heat content, melting of glaciers and ice. 

IPCC states that if no efforts are being made to reduce greenhouse emissions by 2040 the sea-level can rise to around 30 cm. Additionally, they have predicted that a rise of 50 cm will permanently flood north Jakarta

Can the city be saved?

The Indonesian government seems to have neglected the idea of saving Jakarta, and instead planning to relocate the capital to the less populated island of Borneo in eastern Kalimantan. 

A plan has also been made in terms of relocation of administrative buildings and government officials, but the situation of the residence is still unclear. It has been estimated that the new capital can accommodate around 1-1.5 million out of the 10.6 people currently residing in Jakarta. However,  the residents of Jakarta do not seem concerned yet, as they do not believe Jakarta will sink regardless of what experts believe.

Rising sea-level is a significant issue for the Indonesian government to focus and act on; not only to save its capital and the threat to its residents in Jakarta, but also because of the damage it will have on coral reefs and environment. Without taking any measurements , it could worsen the situation and the country’s economy as Jakarta serves a huge role in Indonesia’s GDP. 

To completely control the sea-level is impossible, but there are certain measures the government can take to influence it. This can be done by reducing its Greenhouse emission. As IPCC  stated, greenhouse gases have shown to impact global warming and a reduction could possibly slow down the process of rising sea-levels and give the government more time to act or adapt to the rise.

Writer: Chaymae Arraji


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