Flood events in Indonesia are becoming increasingly intense and frequent. Two UNESCO biosphere reserve islands, recognized for their natural beauty and biodiversity, were subsumed by the ocean. Betet and Gundul islands are now between 1 and 3 meters below sea level. Four other nearby islands are on the verge of disappearing. The loss of coastline and islands affects the many people that live along Indonesia’s water front, especially during flooding periods and in areas that are degrading from land mismanagement.
Floods in January killed at least 60 people in Jakarta and displaced 175,000 to shelters. 93,000 have abandoned their homes. 400,000 overall were estimated to have been affected. Indonesia’s capital is home to 30 million people and experiences yearly monsoon rains. The day of the flooding, January 1st, was the heaviest single day rainfall since record keeping began in 1866. As groundwater is overexploited beneath Jakarta and new construction continues, the city sinks more, becoming increasingly vulnerable to monsoon rains, rising sea levels and large scale storms. 40% of the city is below sea level and is sinking 3 inches a year. The city sinks 11 inches a year along the coast. 95% of North Jakarta will be under water by 2050. A giant sea wall, 40 kilometers long by 24 meters high, is under construction to reduce flooding (image above) but many question its effectiveness and argue that it fails to address the root cause of flooding. With limited available land to convert to green spaces – such as wetlands – to absorb coastal flooding, sinking from groundwater overexploitation and rising sea levels, the government is turning to a more drastic measure. The land subsidence has forced the president to announce to move the capital by 2024 to East Kalimantan. The move will cost $34 billion.
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The Indonesian Department of Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics (BMKG) reported the highest rainfall since 2007 during the flooding. With climate change, Indonesia will experience more extreme monsoon rains. As mangroves, which buffer high tides and rising sea levels, are removed the 81,000 km of Indonesia’s coastline will become more vulnerable. The loss of other green spaces will also reduce the ability of landscapes to absorb water, from rising sea levels and flooding. Those most affected will be the poor in underinvested areas lacking the drainage infrastructure.
The World Bank approved $160 million loan to the Indonesia Disaster Resilience Initiatives Project (IDRIP) to develop a comprehensive disaster plan. This plan should bring together Bappenas, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) and Ministry of Public Works and Housing to create resilient human-environment landscapes and infrastructure.
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Indonesia’s land and resource mismanagement, underinvestment in drainage infrastructure in poor areas and destruction of natural disaster buffeting environments will continue to diminish the country’s ability to cope with natural disasters. These disasters will only intensify as the climate changes.
Mangroves and green spaces buffet storms, absorb excess water and reduce land subsidence. Mangrove should be reintroduced around settlements and along coasts. Infrastructure should incorporate green spaces and environments into drainage systems and water cycling. The regrowth of vegetation in conjunction with investments in resilient infrastructure will require BNPB, KLHK and Bappenas to work together and with local government. The IDRIP plan presents an opportunity for these agencies to incorporate environment, infrastructure and resiliency planning in disaster management projects.
Contact the IDRIP representative at the World Bank:
For more information contact Climate Scorecard Indonesia Country Manager Tristan Grupp: Tristan@climatescorecard.org