The Capital of Indonesia is Sinking; Climate Change is to Blame

Central Jakarta flooded in February 2020. (Image Credit: Donny Fernando)

Indonesia is moving its capital from Jakarta, a coastline city, to Nusantara, a site deep in the jungle.  The reason? Jakarta will soon be underwater. Sitting on swampy ground near the sea, the current capital is prone to flooding. In fact, the streets get so clogged with debris when it floods that it’s estimated the congestion costs the country $4.5 billion annually. And rising sea levels are only making the problem worse.

Jakarta is one of the fastest sinking cities on the planet, due mainly to the over-extraction of groundwater. When water gets pumped out of underground aquifers, the compacted soil above collapses, leading to this sinking. And while aquifers are normally refilled when it rains, Jakarta is covered in concrete and asphalt, surfaces that aren’t permeable to rain and don’t allow the aquifers to recover.

Ultimately, rising sea levels and sinking ground mean Jakarta won’t be habitable – or above ground – for much longer. The problem that remains even after the government moves is that the capital is currently home to 10 million people. So while the government may be relocating, millions will be left in a sinking city with worsening pollution.