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INDONESIA: Treading Water in Jakarta


Photo by Jacqueline M. Koch Photo by Jacqueline M. Koch Photo by Jacqueline M. Koch Photo by Jacqueline M. Koch Photo by Jacqueline M. Koch Photo by Jacqueline M. Koch Photo by Jacqueline M. Koch Photo by Jacqueline M. Koch Photo by Jacqueline M. Koch Photo by Jacqueline M. Koch

Poor urban planning defines Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital and home to over 13 million people. When the rainy season hits, heavy downpours usually lead to flash flooding, soaking large swaths of the city in a toxic mixture of sewage and and trash, further corroding the city’s crumbling infrastructure.

In late 2007, the forceful surge from the king tides broke through the sea wall, devastating a waterfront slum.
A story in AsianGEO, examines how climate change and rising sea levels will impact the most vulnerable populations—particularly children.

Children in the waterfront slum Muara Baru grow up amid the waste and sewage discharged by Jakarta's 14.25 million residents. They are also on the frontline of tidal floods and rising sea levels in a city that is sinking.
In November 2007, high seasonal tides caused Jakarta's sea wall to burst, flooding Muara Baru and forcing residents to evacuate. Experts claim that the sprawling Indonesian capital is sinking at the rate of five centimeters per year, while global warming is causing the sea level to rise.
The high tide returned for a week, flooding streets homes and businesses. With few other options, residents attempt to keep themselves and their most precious belongings dry until the tide cycle passes.
Some residents have adjusted in stride, sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes as a torrent of sea water rushes in as the high tide peaks.
Using rivers to dispose of household waste is exacerbating flooding in Jakarta. Urban development continues at a furious pace, but often without the infrastructure to sustain it.
For children, crisis equals opportunity: The lack of proper waste management turns heaps of trash into a playground and higher ground when the water rises.
City streets become canals through which transit become a mix of cars and boats.
Water levels finally receded a week after bursting through Jakarta's sea wall and this woman returned to find her one-room shelter and its contents ruined.
Families living in extreme urban poverty collides with a sinking city facing rising sea levels, a situation that has prompted calls to relocate Indonesia's capital.
Her home surrounded by floating garbage, this young girl plucks plastic from the flotsam to recycle for small change.|