Impact of climate change on Jakarta

by: Tommy Firman,

Coastal mega-cities in Asia are facing the adverse impacts of climate change, including flooding, rising sea levels and intense storm surges, all of which could damage housing, infrastructure and city and national economies. However, to a certain extent the issues of climate risks are still widely misunderstood and underestimated because discourse on the subject has largely been limited to circulation within the scientific community. Very little information has been systematically communicated to the broader public.

Jakarta is considered very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Nevertheless, the Jakarta administration still does not have a strategy to design and implement policies to deal with climate change. The central government has been more progressive, having issued several climate-related regulations, including air quality control, absorption wells, gas emission controls, bio-pore absorption holes, smoke-free zones and river and drainage improvements.

The Jakarta administration tends to focus more on disaster management instead of efforts to anticipate the effects of climate change. Instead of constantly responding on an after-the-fact basis, their efforts should be more proactive and consider long-term horizons.

At present Jakarta has about 400,000 impoverished residents and another 300,000 nearly poor residents (BPS, 2008) who are vulnerable to environmental changes, including increased flooding and rising sea levels. If these people do not have any place to move, they obviously have no choice but to face the consequences.

One climate related hazard that has occurred often in North Jakarta is tidal flooding. It is projected that by 2050 some areas in Jakarta will be inundated if global warming continues at its current pace (Susandi, 2009). Many areas in North and Central Jakarta might one day be submerged and residents will suffer significantly from the resulting physical and socio-economic impacts.

Another factor related to potential inundation is land sinkage. There are four types of land sinkage in the Jakarta Basin: sinkage caused by groundwater extraction; sinkage caused by construction; sinkage caused by natural consolidation; and sinkage caused by tectonic shifts (Abidin et al, 2008).

The Jakarta General Spatial Plan (RUTR) is currently under revision, but is expected to be completed by the end of 2010. The present Jakarta Spatial Plan does not take climate change factors into consideration. Appropriate indicators to assess the impacts of climate change still have not been formulated. The revised spatial plan will incorporate analysis of hazards such as flooding, land sinkage and fires. If amendments to Jakarta’s general spatial plan are under consideration, revision of the detailed spatial plan (RDTR) will also be necessary.

Geographic spatial information systems (GIS) have been installed by several government agencies, both at the municipal and national levels. However, at present GIS are mainly used for urban planning purposes, such as mapping and zoning, but their usefulness has not been systematically integrated with existing social, economic and climate data.

It is not an easy task to conduct a meaningful assessment of the climactic conditions in Jakarta, such as longitudinal analysis of rainfall and tides. However, data can be accessed in several central and local government institutions, including the Coordinating Body for Surveying and Mapping (Bakosurtanal), the Central Statistics Agency and the Meteorological, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), but coordination among these agencies needs to be improved to enable effective and efficient use of data.

There are three agencies under the Jakarta administration whose responsibilities are related to coping with climate change issues coping activities, including the Board of Regional Development Planning (Bappeda), the Board of Environmental Management (BPLHD) and the Provincial Coordinating Unit for Disaster and Refugee Management (Satkorlak PB). However, there is no particular agency or institution in Jakarta assigned to conduct risk and vulnerability assessments, manage climate change data and disseminate climate information to the general public. There appears to be a lack of coordination among local government agencies when it comes to climate change and its potential impacts. This unfortunately describes the weakness of the National Council of Climate Change (DNPI), which is responsible for managing mitigation and adaptation research and communicating action plans at the national level. At present there is no road map on adaptation and mitigation programs to respond to climate change in Jakarta.

Climate risk assessments in Jakarta have been conducted by different research and government institutions in a fragmented manner. There is almost no correlation between among risk assessment and urban development.

Property developers building on the north coast of Jakarta, for example, have anticipated flooding and have responded by building canals and sophisticated drainage systems. However, the climate risks have only been considered for areas occupied by middle and upper class communities, while lower income neighborhoods have been neglected.

The knowledge of climate hazards and options for adaptation and mitigation among local government officials and related agencies needs to be supported by technical training. The commitment of local officials has to be strengthened.

There is an urgent need for better dissemination of information on climate risks facing Jakarta residents. Public awareness needs to be improved. People should be informed about what they stand to gain if they get involved in climate adaptation and mitigation processes. In short, public awareness should be the primary objective of a public climate change campaign. [thejakartapost]

The writer is a professor at the Bandung Institute of Technology, Bandung.


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