25. January 2013 / Puspita Galih Resi, Alexander Ivan Saputra

Emerging Jakarta: ill-equipped to cope with changing climate

At the beginning of January intense monsoonal rain along with rising sea levels and high tides has caused heavy flooding across the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. The city's worst flood in five years has forced more than 20 000 people to flee their homes – some seeking temporary shelter on rafts. Since January 21st 19 people have died.

Waterways clogged with garbage and various other pollutants have exacerbated the extent of the flooding. Unlike other past flooding events, not only flood-prone areas were inundated with floodwaters but also the central business district around Thamrin Street, causing huge financial losses in a matter of hours. Sadly, infrastructure development has not kept pace with the city's growth – this is especially disappointing given Jakarta achieved 6.7% economic growth in 2012. The government is acting to mitigate the threat of flooding to the city, and is now taking emergency action to repair the collapsed canal dike responsible for letting floodwater pour into the CBD. Hundreds of high-pressure pumps have since been used to decrease the flood levels, especially in residential areas.

Cars, buses and other vehicles struggle against the floodwaters to access their workplaces.Photo: Sandro Gatra, Kompas.com

The situation came about due to a variety of factors – a general low-quality of infrastructure and chaotic planning practices are major contributors, the major problem being the city lacks the skills and knowledge required to build adequate flood defences. Deforestation in the highlands to the south of Jakarta has led to increased run-off in the catchment areas, exacerbating the problem.

Laying blame on government is however not a particularly helpful exercise, we need a development strategy incorporating hydrological and social modelling as a response to ecological and urban challenges. How can Jakarta's urban landscape architecture, ecology and hydrology be managed to provide a better living standard for its 10 million inhabitants? It is certainly a challenging question to answer, but one we cannot ignore.

This local train station stopped operating during Jakarta’s flood – everyday the local trains carry 20 000 passengers around Jakarta. Photo: media.viva.co.id

Jakarta Central Business District at Jl. MH. Thamrin, many office towers were forced to stop operating. Photo: www.kabar24.com


Puspita Galih Resi is a landscape architect and Alexander Ivan Saputra is an architect. They are both based in Jakarta, Indonesia.

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