In flood-prone Jakarta, will ‘Gi­ant Sea Wall’ plan sink or swim?

The Jerusalem Post - - COMMENT & FEATURES - • By THIN LEI WIN

BANGKOK (Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion) – In­done­sia’s bustling cap­i­tal, Jakarta, is sink­ing faster than any other city in the world. But an am­bi­tious plan to build a gi­ant wall to keep out the en­croach­ing sea has come un­der fire from fish­er­men who fear for their catches and homes, and wa­ter ex­perts who say it doesn’t do enough to tackle land sub­si­dence.

The city’s north­ern ar­eas have sunk 4 me­ters (13 ft) in the past 40 years, Ja­panese ex­perts say, while some ‘hot spots’ are said to be drop­ping as much as 20 cen­time­ters a year.

The 10 mil­lion res­i­dents of the low-ly­ing coastal city, built on a swampy plain, are ex­posed to tidal and sea­sonal flood­ing. In 2013, parts were sub­merged un­der nearly 2 me­ters of wa­ter af­ter a heavy mon­soon storm.

Jakarta’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity to floods – al­ready ex­ac­er­bated by pop­u­la­tion growth, ur­ban­iza­tion and chang­ing land use – rises with ev­ery cen­time­ter the ground falls.

Ex­perts and res­i­dents agree that over-ex­trac­tion of ground­wa­ter for drink­ing and com­mer­cial use is largely re­spon­si­ble for the land sub­si­dence.

What they don’t agree on is how to tackle it. An iconic in­fra­struc­ture project that is sup­posed to ease Jakarta’s flood­ing woes is mired in un­cer­tainty.

The Dutch, re­garded as the fore­most au­thor­i­ties on the con­cept of “liv­ing with wa­ter”, are lend­ing their ex­per­tise via the flood preven­tion plan in­volv­ing a gi­ant sea wall that will close off Jakarta Bay, which could cost up to $40 bil­lion.

Crit­ics, how­ever, say the Na­tional Cap­i­tal In­te­grated Coastal De­vel­op­ment (NCICD) pro­gram does not ad­dress land sub­si­dence – the un­der­ly­ing rea­son for flood­ing.

At the same time, “the govern­ment is throw­ing away ac­cess to the sea” for tens of thou­sands of peo­ple in the bay who rely on fish­ing and fish-pro­cess­ing, said Ah­mad Marthin Hadi­winata of the In­done­sia Tra­di­tional Fish­er­folk Union.

He wor­ries that lo­cal res­i­dents will be evicted from their homes to make way for the new in­fra­struc­ture.

Un­veiled in 2014 – and bet­ter known as the “Great Garuda” or “Gi­ant Sea Wall” – the project in­volves rais­ing and strength­en­ing the ex­ist­ing on­shore em­bank­ment of Jakarta Bay, as well as con­struct­ing a 15-mile outer sea wall and de­vel­op­ing real es­tate on ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands re­claimed from the ocean.

Seen from the air, the mega con­struc­tion project was ini­tially shaped like a garuda, the bird-god of Hindu mythol­ogy that is In­done­sia’s na­tional sym­bol.

But the de­sign was changed in re­sponse to op­po­si­tion and a govern­ment re­quest to in­cor­po­rate another project led by pri­vate de­vel­op­ers to build 17 ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands, said Vic­tor Coe­nen, In­done­sia rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Wit­teveen+Bos, a Dutch en­gi­neer­ing con­sul­tancy lead­ing the NCICD con­sor­tium.

Its part­ners, which also in­clude South Korea, are now await­ing the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion on the fi­nal plan, he added.

A June doc­u­ment out­lin­ing an up­dated NCICD mas­ter plan, seen by the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion, con­firmed the new de­sign and em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of stop­ping land sub­si­dence, as well as ad­dress­ing wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion is­sues.

The Min­istry of Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan­ning did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

The NCICD is one of many wa­ter projects the Dutch have em­barked on in their for­mer colony. In May, In­done­sia gave the go ahead to Dutch com­pa­nies to build the world’s largest tidal power plant in east­ern In­done­sia.

Three Dutch non-profit groups – Both ENDS, the Cen­tre for Re­search on Multi­na­tional Cor­po­ra­tions (SOMO) and the Transna­tional In­sti­tute – said in an April re­port that the NCICD threat­ened the liveli­hoods of tens of thou­sands of peo­ple and had failed to fol­low de­sign guide­lines that would ap­ply in the Nether­lands, call­ing it a “pseudo-so­lu­tion.”

Hadi­winata from the Fish­er­folk Union said lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties also ob­ject to a lack of con­sul­ta­tion and im­pact as­sess­ments.

At least 25,000 fish­er­men have been hit by work al­ready done for the project and other land recla­ma­tion ini­tia­tives along Jakarta Bay, which have caused added.

They have to go fur­ther to find fish, whose num­bers are now very low, he told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion.

Many, in­clud­ing Hadi­winata, are hop­ing Anies Baswedan, who won a hard-fought election for the post of Jakarta gover­nor in April, will stop or mod­ify the project when he takes of­fice in Oc­to­ber. Work was sus­pended for sev­eral months in 2016 amid reg­u­la­tory and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns.

Dur­ing his cam­paign, Baswedan was vo­cal about his op­po­si­tion to the NCICD but has said noth­ing since. He was not avail­able to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle.

Coe­nen said stop­ping land sub­si­dence is im­por­tant but could take 15 to 20 years, mean­ing Jakarta should work on flood preven­tion at the same time. The fu­ture of the crowded city’s flood pro­tec­tion lies off­shore be­cause it has no space for flood basins, he added.

“It’s only a ques­tion of how far off­shore you go, how big you want to build, and how long you want it to last, be­cause the smaller the scheme, the shorter the life­time will be,” he said.

The project’s first phase of strength­en­ing the ex­ist­ing em­bank­ment along Jakarta’s shore­line, which be­gan in 2014, is about a third com­plete, Coe­nen said.

Crit­ics of the NCICD are hop­ing a three-year project to study and stop land sub­si­dence, agreed in July be­tween In­done­sia and Ja­pan’s in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment agency JICA, could help.

It in­volves de­vel­op­ing bet­ter mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems to mea­sure where sub­si­dence is worst and ground­wa­ter ex­trac­tion heav­i­est, rais­ing aware­ness of the dan­gers, and un­der­tak­ing mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures such as sed­i­men­ta­tion, he reg­u­lat­ing ground­wa­ter us­age.

It may be one to two years be­fore there is re­li­able, con­sol­i­dated data on land sub­si­dence, but the find­ings will feed into the NCICD, JICA said.

“Tokyo started reg­u­lat­ing ground­wa­ter us­age in the 1960s,” said Jun Hayakawa, JICA’s ex­pert on wa­ter re­source man­age­ment. “By the early 1970s, the ground­wa­ter ex­trac­tion and land sub­si­dence stopped.”

If most of Jakarta’s ground­wa­ter us­age can be pro­hib­ited, the city may soon see re­sults, he said.

But this de­pends on how quickly the lo­cal and na­tional govern­ments can adopt reg­u­la­tions and pro­vide al­ter­na­tive wa­ter sources, he added. That could be a ma­jor stum­bling block.

In­done­sian wa­ter ex­pert Nila Ard­hi­anie said around 65 % of Jakarta’s res­i­dents are forced to use ground­wa­ter be­cause the piped wa­ter sys­tem only cov­ers about a third of the pop­u­la­tion. But she puts a larger share of the blame for land sub­si­dence on com­mer­cial use by ho­tels, malls and busi­nesses.

Nearly ev­ery large govern­ment build­ing also draws on deep ground­wa­ter wells, even though many have piped wa­ter, be­cause ground­wa­ter is free for public build­ings in Jakarta, ac­cord­ing to Dutch think tank Deltares.

Un­der the cur­rent sys­tem, op­er­ated by a city-owned wa­ter com­pany and two pri­vate firms, uni­ver­sal ac­cess to piped wa­ter would be achieved only by 2022, too late to stop ground­wa­ter ex­trac­tion in time to brake fur­ther land sub­si­dence, the re­port from the Dutch non-prof­its said.

Tokyo also had to build sea walls but they were raised grad­u­ally, said JICA’s Hayakawa, sug­gest­ing Jakarta could do the same. “We need sea walls to pro­tect the lives and as­sets of peo­ple in Jakarta,” he said.


CHIL­DREN PLAY soc­cer near a new con­struc­tion of a con­crete sea wall at Cil­inc­ing area in Jakarta, In­done­sia last month.

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