A tsunami of human-made troubles in the Indonesian capital poses an imminent threat to the city’s survival. And it has to deal with mounting threats from climate change. By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN, Photographs by JOSH HANER
“In fact, Jakarta is sinking faster than any other big city on the planet, faster, even, than climate change is causing the sea to rise — so surreally fast that rivers sometimes flow upstream, ordinary rains regularly swamp neighborhoods and buildings slowly disappear underground, swallowed by the earth. The main cause: Jakartans are digging illegal wells, drip by drip draining the underground aquifers on which the city rests — like deflating a giant cushion underneath it. About 40 percent of Jakarta now lies below sea level.
Coastal districts, like Muara Baru, near the Blessed Bodega, have sunk as much as 14 feet in recent years. Not long ago I drove around northern Jakarta and saw teenagers fishing in the abandoned shell of a half-submerged factory. The banks of a murky canal lapped at the trestle of a railway bridge, which, until recently, had arched high over it.”
“Jakarta’s former governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, ordered the eviction. He is ethnic Chinese, a geological engineer by training. As governor, he tackled several of Jakarta’s big problems, or tried to. He tried, but failed, to wrest control of the water supply from the private companies. He assembled a sanitation crew, called the Orange Army, to remove sediment and garbage from rivers and canals.
And he cleared out some of the kampungs that obstructed waterways. The efforts began to make a difference. Rains that once caused days of floods drained within hours.
But many people forced out, like Topaz, resisted the moves, convinced that the evictions were really intended to enrich developers, not improve drainage. Akuarium became a hotbed of protest against the governor.
Capitalizing on residents’ resistance and the piety of the urban poor, the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front teamed with some of the governor’s political rivals and religious conservatives to tap into a vein of anti-Chinese populism. Ahok’s enemies escalated what had been a conflict over the displacement of a fishing community into an argument about whether a non-Muslim should lead a Muslim-majority city.
The governor found himself regularly attacked at Friday prayers. He lost his re-election bid, and the Islamists, who exploited anger against him, had him brought up on charges of blasphemy. He is serving two years in prison.”
David Lindsay: These stories make a good argument for communism, or fascism. Democracy hasn’t worked for Jakarta.
It seems like they are repeating an old meme from the Christian bible stories, the sins of the world were cleansed by Noah’s flood.