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Jakarta Vulnerable to Global Warming: West Java

Username By Barrie | April 30th, 2007 | Comments No Comments

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 groundwater.

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 city.

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 residents.

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

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 (Deden Rukmana) is an assistant professor of urban studies at Savannah State University in the U.S. He can be reached at

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