Published On: Sun, Mar 3rd, 2024

Inside the world’s fastest sinking city home to 33 million people | World | News

Picture this: you’ve lived in your home for 30 years and sat on your balcony overlooking the city every night.

Something strange has happened in that time, and it feels like your view has changed, that the forests and buildings in the distance are somehow taller — you almost feel like your home is sinking into the ground.

Well, that’s exactly what is happening in Jakarta, the massive capital of Indonesia whose metropolitan population numbers more than 30 million people.

The powers that be have known for years that the city is slowly being gobbled up by the ground, but little in the way of risk management has been deployed.

It is as such the world’s fastest-sinking city, with scientific models suggesting that the megacity will almost be completely submerged by 2050 if things don’t change.

Jakarta sits on swampy land with the mighty Java Sea smashing against its shores. No fewer than 13 rivers run through it, so it’s no surprise that the city experiences regular flooding.

Yet, experts say the situation is getting worse, with freak floods becoming more common and the city’s sinking growing faster by the day.

The worst is already happening in north Jakarta, where the city has sunk around 2.5metres in 10 years and is sinking by as much as 25cm a year in some areas.

This figure is more than double the global average for coastal megacities and something scientists say Jakarta could become almost entirely submerged in the next 30 years.

“The potential for Jakarta to be submerged isn’t a laughing matter,” Heri Andreas, who has studied Jakarta’s land subsidence for the past 20 years at the Bandung Institute of Technology, told the BBC. “If we look at our models, by 2050 about 95% of North Jakarta will be submerged.”

The city as a whole is sinking by an average of 1 to 15 cm a year, and almost half of it is now below sea level. Jakarta’s authorities have been given until 2030 to come up with a solution, a deadline that is thought to be the point of no return.

It is unclear whether or not any concrete plans have been drawn up and to what extent they are being acted on. However, in 2022 reports emerged that the Indonesian government was bidding farewell to Jakarta as capital and locking eyes on a new metropolis.

Nusantara, as it has been called, will be a purpose-built city more than 620 miles away in Borneo island’s East Kalimantan province.

While relocating a capital is one of the most difficult things a government can do, with examples from Kazakhstan to Myanmar to prove it, the Indonesian government’s official website claims that plans to relocate are in the advanced stages already.

It states that President Joko Widodo plans to host Indonesia’s 79th Independence Day celebrations in Nusantara in August 2024.

It is hoped that by this point, the core infrastructure for an initial 500,000 residents will be complete. However, what it all means for Jakarta and its inhabitants remains to be seen.

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