Fastest Sinking City in the World – Change of Capital Cities

Some of you may be aware of the fact that Indonesia is changing it’s capital city from Jakarta to Borneo; you may also be aware of why. I have done lots of research into the history of Jakarta, why it is flooding and what the effects are likely to be when the capital city is relocated.

The aim of this blog is to simply inform and relay what I have learned as I find it fascinating. Indonesia is culture-rich and gorgeous country and I would implore you to visit.

Indonesia – Where is it?

This diverse and populated country is based in Asia, below Thailand and above Australia. It has a current population of 270 million people, who are spread over 18,307 different islands that make up the country. It is spread across 3 different time zones, and contains 139 volcanoes and the famous Komodo Dragon.

Jakarta – Current Capital City

Jakarta is known as the ‘Fastest Sinking City in the World’ and the current capital city of Indonesia. It has a population of 10.7 million, which equates to 1121 people per km square of space – in simple terms, it’s very heavily populated.

There have been 2 catastrophic flooding events that have hit Jakarta, despite the precautions put in place to prevent flooding (these include extensive canal systems and sea walls). One occurred in 2007, killing 40 people, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless and costing the government $500 mil in damage control.

Another event, although considered to be less severe but still classed as a state of emergency, occurred in 2013 where the city was 2m deep in water.

JanJaap Brinkman, a hydrologist from the Dutch water research institute, provided the government with 2 options:

  1. Move 4 million people out of the city, and allow North Jakarta to continue flooding
  2. Turn Jakarta Bay into a ‘very large pump lake’.

Only the second one of these options was explored, but was dismissed due to the gathering of 13 heavily polluted rivers in this pump lake, and also leaving the city without a public sanitation system, encouraging disease to spread.

The reason why I bring these previous events into light, is due to the reason why the capital city is being relocated – the island of Java is sinking. At an alarming rate of 25cm per year, by 2050, the whole island will be immersed in water. 40% already is.

What is the reason for this?

For such a small island, Java is severely overpopulated. Major urbanization has lead to the grounds inability to absorb rainfall, which causes the flooding and sea level to rise.

There is also a case of the pumping of underground water. Only 60% of Jakarta is supplied with water, causing the remaining 40% to pump groundwater that cannot easily be replaced. These wells are dug hundreds of meters and cause dry cavities under the city. In turn, this leads to an unsecure framework that the city is built upon, and therefore easier to sink.

Locals retreiving water from the wells

This isn’t the only reason for the change in capital cities …

Air pollution is a major contributing factor to the government’s decision. Within the last few months, pollution has increase drastically, causing activists to take action by suing the government. According to research, the air pollution is dire enough to remove 5 years off people’s life expectancy.

The Facts

The captial city of Indonesia is to be moved to East Kalimantan province in Borneo. Building is expected to commence in 2021 and the government aim to move all 1.4mil workers by 2024, which is a huge feat.

The move is expected to cost 466 trillion Rupiah, which equates to £26.8 million or $33 million.

Why Borneo?

The East Kalimatan province is considered safe from natural disasters due to its location; it is buffered by multiple islands. It is part of the ‘lungs of the world’ due to the tropical rainforest that inhabits thousands of species of animals. Also, it is the most developed of all 5 provinces in Borneo.

What Effect Does This Have on Borneo?

The government are conducting an environmental stuyd to prepare for the impacts that moving will have on the rainforest – it is expected to be completed in November. (I will be sure to follow this up once I have learned the results!)

However, researchers have already stated multiple effects that this will have and these include deforestation and fragmentation.

Deforestation – the action of clearing a wide area of trees. This leads to the loss of habitat for many animals and also implies that we are losing the ‘lungs of our Earth’ which can have a detrimental effect on everyone.

Fragmentation – the process or state of breaking or being broken into fragments. Roads will be built in order to connect the city to the rest of the province, and this divides the rainforests and leads to smaller habitats as animals will not be able to cross.

One of the biggest concerns that ecologists and conservationists have are regarding the Bornean Orangutans.

Bornean Orangutan

Their population currently stands at 104,700 which is a worryingly low amount. Over the past 60 years, it is estimated that their numbers have dropped by over 50%.

These orangutans can only be found in Bornean rainforests, but their habitats have been reduced by 55% in the past 20 years for farming, mining, and now the government.

In order to save this species, the government need to take necessary precautions given by ecologists.

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