By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – The Indonesian government announced this week it was moving its capital from Jakarta to a sparsely populated region in the East Kalimantan province of the island of Borneo. The combination of sea level rise coupled with the indiscriminate use of groundwater has led many coastal to cities, like Indonesia’s capital, to sink.
“The government has conducted in-depth studies and we have intensified the studies in the past three years,” Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo, told reporters on Monday, August 26th.
“The result of those studies shows that the most ideal location for the new capital is part of North Penajam Paser Regency and part of Kutai Kartanegara Regency in East Kalimantan.”
“The location is very strategic — it’s in the center of Indonesia and close to urban areas,” Widodo said. “The burden Jakarta is holding right now is too heavy as the center of governance, business, finance, trade and services.”
The current capital, located on the northwest coast of the island of Java is one of the world’s largest cities with a metropolitan area which is home to almost thirty million residents. The moving of the capital will take approximately ten years and cost over US$33 billion.
According to the World Economic Forum Jakarta is “also one of the world’s fastest disappearing cities. […] Sitting as it does on the shores of the Java Sea, one of the problems facing Jakarta is the phenomenon of rising sea levels.”
“NASA has been tracking sea levels via satellite since 1993. It has detected a rise of around 3.3 feet in that time,” said the Forum in one of its reports in 2018.
According to environmentalists the current capital and its metropolitan area are sinking at an average rate of 9.8 inches per year, one of the fastest-sinking cities in the world. North Jakarta has sunk an incredible 8 feet in ten years and is continuing to sink by as much as 9 inches a year in some parts.
The rest of Jakarta is also sinking, but at a slower rate. In West Jakarta, the ground is sinking by as much as 6 inches annually, by 4 inches annually in the east, .7 inches in Central Jakarta and just .4 inches in South Jakarta.
Last year in a BBC report, Heri Andreas, who has studied Jakarta’s land subsidence for the past twenty years at the Bandung Institute of Technology explained, “The potential for Jakarta to be submerged isn’t a laughing matter, if we look at our models, by 2050 about 95 percent of North Jakarta will be submerged.”
Scientists however, warn that Jakarta is not the only city which could disappear in the next few decades due to sea level rise and indiscriminate groundwater usage. Among the most threatened cities to disappear are London, Shanghai, Bangkok, Houston, Manila, Dhaka and Lagos.
The Guardian reported that cities named in a United Nations IPCC report are sinking for a variety of reasons. Jakarta is sinking largely because of groundwater extraction, while Houston is sinking as the oil wells beneath it are depleted.
Bangkok’s skyscrapers are thought to be weighing it down, while London is slowly sinking because it is seesawing with Scotland, which is slowly rising after having been weighed down by glaciers (which are melting).