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Indonesia says urgent to build giant sea wall to prevent capital from submerged

Christian Fernsby |
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said that there is an urgent need to build a giant wall around Jakarta to prevent the coastal capital from sinking.

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"This huge project will need to be done quickly to prevent Jakarta from sinking under the sea," Widodo told AP in an interview released Friday.

It's time to move ahead with the sea wall, a project the government first began to consider a decade ago, he said.

Oceans are rising around the world as a result of climate change and global warming, causing dangerous flooding in coastal areas.

Average sea levels have swelled about 23 cm since 1880, according to data from the U.S. space agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with a global mean sea-level rise of about 3.3 mm each year.

Jakarta, a metropolis with a population of 10 million, is one of the world's fastest sinking cities.

Over-extraction of groundwater for drinking and commercial use is the main cause of its rapid subsidence, while the weight of high-rise buildings erected in recent years exacerbated the problem, the AP reported.

Jakarta is prone to flooding, especially during monsoon seasons. It suffered from a catastrophic flood in February 2007, with around 80 people killed and half a million people displaced, according to data provided by the Dartmouth Flood Observatory.

Currently almost half of the city already sits below the sea level, estimates released August by experts at the Bandung Institute of Technology showed.

"If we look at our models, by 2050 about 95 percent of North Jakarta will be submerged," said Heri Andreas, who led the study.

The idea of building a giant sea wall is not new. The coastal development project, named "Giant Sea Wall Jakarta," was unveiled in 2014.

But constructing such a mega project won't be easy. Its total cost is estimated at 42 billion U.S. dollars, including strengthening the existing 30-km coastal dikes, creating 17 artificial islands and building giant sea walls on the western and eastern sides of Jakarta Bay.

Moreover, local fishermen are suspicious of the project, fearing it would affect their livelihood.

Widodo, who was re-elected as president in May, told the AP that he is determined to push through key projects and reforms, even if potentially unpopular, as he'll be less constrained by domestic politics in his second and final five-year term.

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