Sunday, September 08, 2019

Indonesia moving its bureaucracy to higher ground, but Jakarta stays right where it is

Indonesia has announced that it is undertaking what is perhaps the largest and highest profile climate change adaptation project yet. It is moving its capital city to a completely new location on a separate island, at an estimated cost of around $33 billion.
Jakarta is the commercial cultural and political centre of the country. The city's metropolitan area currently has a population of over 31 million, which is predicted to rise to 36 million by 2030, overtaking Tokyo and making it the most populous city in the world. It is a crowded, noisy melee of humanity, with some of the worst traffic congestion and air quality in the world.
But that is not why it is being moved. It is also sinking, faster than almost any other city - over 2.5 metres in the last 10 years alone - and almost all of northern Jakarta is expected to be underwater by 2050. This is due to rising sea levels from climate change, but also because, as it continues to drain the swamp on which it sits for drinking water, the city is also literally sinking downwards.
However, don't get the impression that all the residents of Jakarta will be moving en masse from the lowland swampy island of Java to the safer uplands of East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, some 2,000 kilometres away. It is only the "capital" part of the city, the administrative and bureacratic functions and personnel, that is being located. Jakarta itself, with all its tens of millions of largely poverty-stricken inhabitants, will stay right where it is in its smoggy, run-down, gradually-sinking location on the edge of a soupy inland sea. Supposedly, tens of millions of dollars will be sunk into repair and adaptation projects in the old capital, but "sunk" is most definitely the operative word here.
Jakarta is not the first capital city to be moved. Brasilia, Abuja, Dodoma and Canberra are all essentially new planned cities, built to house governments and bureaucrats. But in all these cases, the old cities (Rio de Jeneiro, Lagos, Dar es Salaam and Sydney) remain the de facto hearts of their respective countries, and Jakarta will be no different. Except that Jakarta is sinking further and further into squalor and impracticality! And the fact remains that there are simply too many cities and populations around the world to be moved out of coastal locations threatened by sea level rise (the international network of cities C40 Cities estimates about 800 million people in 570 cities by 2050).
So, maybe we need to, you know, fix that climate change problem?

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