INDONESIA TODAY: Could Garuda Save Sinking Jakarta?

By Linda Kimbrough

Garuda is a mythical bird-like creature adopted from Hinduism and Buddhism ideology as Indonesia’s national emblem called Garuda Pancasila. Soekarno’s mother was from Bali, a province in Indonesia where the largest Hindu followers is concentrated. Looking at the Then and Now photograph of Jakarta, one could only notice the obvious changes that have taken place since the 1600s.

On the surface Jakarta seems like many other metropolitan in the world. But, Jakarta has massive ecological issues. The capital of the fourth most populous country in the world, where over ten million people live is sinking fast. Forty percent of the land is under sea level. The northern coast is sinking at the average of six inches a year while the interior land at the about three inches a year. The city ground water is contaminated and it is desperately lacking urban green zone.

Lack of piped water coverage in this over-crowded city leads to increasing demand for groundwater resources which eventually causes gradual caving in of the land. Higher sea level due to global climate change. Poor urban planning. Deprivation of green spaces. Poor governmental policy along with one civil & political turbulent after another. All are contributing factors to the rapid sinking of Jakarta. One could only imagine if Batavia, the city that many Dutch East Indies Indos were born in disappear into the bottom of the bay. Are we seeing a sequel to Atlantis The Lost City in the making in our lifetime?

It is a major migraine pain and tremendous financial burden for a city strives to position itself to be a world class metropolitan. Great flood is a recurrent nightmare for many years. It causes property damages, economic losses, severe emotional stress among its inhabitants and even loss of lives. Traffic jam, delays and cancellations of airplanes, buses, and train. Workers can’t get to work on time, and when/if they did they are usually sleep deprived and exhausted. Their productivity is down. In 2013, the tenth most densely populated city in the world brought to a standstill when over a third of the city was submerged.

Jakarta was built on swamp on a junction of 13 rivers converge into Jakarta Bay. When the Dutch East Indies government built Batavia now Jakarta, it was designed to accommodate 800,000 people. Today Greater Jakarta Metropolitan has over 28 million people. In 2013, The Guardian newspaper reported that then Jakarta city governor Joko Widodo a.k.a. Jokowi admitted that combating flooding is an uphill task. “It’s a very complicated problem. The Dutch built 300 dams and lakes, but there are only 50 left. The wetlands, woods and other green spaces north of the city have been taken over by housing complexes and malls. You can’t just demolish everything,” he said.

When the rain season comes, you would start hearing many residents and nonresidents alike say a prayer, “Tuhan, tolong jangan banjir!” (No flood please God). Well, perhaps their prayer might very well be answered soon? As resilient as Indonesians can be, they are ready for a better city, for a safe and prosperous capital, for a prestigious metropolitan that they can truly be proud of and call it home sweet home.

In his interview with Reuter, Jan Jaap Brinkman, a hydrologist with the Dutch water research institute Deltares who has spent years studying the city’s subsidence and helping devise solutions for the city said, “Jakarta is the world’s worst sinking city!”

With the survival of Jakarta the capital is at stake, in 2013 then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono commissioned National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICDM) Master Plan or better known as the “Giant Sea Wall” or the “Great Garuda” to take on the challenge. NCICDM is a joint project between the Indonesian government and the Netherlands, a country with over two millennia proven record of water management and land reclamation engineering technology. The plan costs US$40 billion over three decades which comes from Indonesia state’s budget and participation of private sectors.

NCICD with their Dutch partners provide an integrated approach to address this challenge. Flood protection, improved sanitation and water supply, improved connectivity and sustainable community development are included in the development of the metropolitan coastal area; Key conditions for further sustainable economic development of Indonesia’s National Capital.

NCICDM explains that the total length of the outer sea wall will be 25 kilometers. The area of the great Waduk will be at minimum 7,500 hectares. It needs to be this big to be able to temporarily retain the water from the 13 rivers of Jakarta. The Outer Sea Wall is located far into sea. The maximum water depth in which it will be constructed is 16 meters and the sea wall will extent 7.7 meters above sea level. The Giant Sea Wall will be largely build form sand, possibly complemented with caissons. Made of sand, the base of the sea wall will be 380 metres wide at its deepest point. Construction methods will be further detailed during the planning and design phase.

Indonesia Investments reported that the wall will serve as a reservoir for Jakarta but will also have many other functions including residential areas, industrial areas, waste treatment, green areas, roads, an airport, 17 artificial island reclamation and more.

One of history’s biggest seawalls project will be built following the contour of Jakarta Bay and carefully shaped like the national emblem, Garuda. One would hope now that Indonesia would remain stable not only economically but more important politically that the Great Garuda would come into fruition and it would last for many future generations to come to keep Jakarta from disappearing into the bottom of the ocean.

WBD15P11 | Jan Jaap Brinkman | Zinkend Jakarta (NL) from waterbouwdag on Vimeo.

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