Why Jakarta is sinking

The 400-year curse dragging Indonesia’s capital into the sea.

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Like many coastal cities around the world, Jakarta is dealing with sea level rise. But Indonesia’s biggest city also has a unique problem: Because of restricted water access in the city, the majority of its residents have to extract groundwater to survive. And it’s causing the city to sink. Today, Jakarta is the world’s fastest-sinking city.

The problem gets worse every year, but the root of it precedes modern Indonesia by centuries. In the 1600s, when the Dutch landed in Indonesia and built present-day Jakarta, they divided up the city to segregate the population. Eventually, that segregation led to an unequal water piping system that excluded most Indigenous Jakartans, forcing them to find other ways to get water.

To understand how it all ties together, and what’s in store for Jakarta’s future, watch the video above.

Sources and further reading:

If you want to learn more about the development of Jakarta’s urban water supply going all the way back to colonial times, check out Michelle Kooy’s detailed reports:

To understand Jakarta’s colonial history and the segregation that came of it, check out this article from the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art: https://jhna.org/articles/dutch-batavia-exposing-hierarchy-dutch-colonial-city/

To read about the evolution of the canals the Dutch built in present-day Jakarta and how their deterioration impacted water access and segregation, here’s a study from Dr. Euis Puspita Dewi, who we feature in the video:

To get a broader look at the many other cities sinking in Indonesia, check out this article by Dr. Estelle Chaussard: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0034425712003975

Thanks for watching and let us know what you think in the comments!

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Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what’s really driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com.

Watch our full video catalog: http://goo.gl/IZONyE
Follow Vox on Facebook: http://goo.gl/U2g06o
Or Twitter: http://goo.gl/XFrZ5H

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  1. Hello! We have translated subtitles available in Bahasa Indonesia. You can access them through the settings icon > Subtitles/CC

    Thanks for watching, and let me know what other colonial histories you want to see explained next in the comments.

    Thanks, Christina, Video Producer

  2. Plate Tectonics; Hurricanes; Excess water from Aquifer; Excessive building above ground; Ground sinking due to water loss from Aquifer, but not global warming!

  3. people should really research where they're moving I don't know why the population influx would increase this much if there's no readily available access to clean drinking water.
    It's like the only thing I like about living in Canada. if the pipes all blow up then you can just travel 45 mins north of any city/town and find a spring.
    Really makes me double think Californias influx of people during the gold rush. They hardly had any clean water at the time to.

  4. As an Indonesian citizen who lives in Jakarta, I completely agree on January of 2020, the first few floors of my apartment got flooded and the electricity went off I wasn't able to go to school or go back to my apartment for 2 weeks

  5. pump salt water from the ocean back into the aquifer and that will raise the land up again and stop people from pumping water out of the aquifer.

  6. So they know what the problem is and what is required to fix it but refuse to. I see no reason to complain. If profits are getting in the way of this National Emergency it's time to make an ultimatum.

  7. For foreigners who watch this, well, this is how government treat us as Indonesian citizens. INCOMPETENT!! FULL OF CORRUPTION! etc.

  8. If you can't build a simple water system, you won't build a bird-like island in the sea. This very much seems like a flashy, eye-catching project which would turn into a sinkhole of public money into the pockets of private national, and international firms.

  9. What a coincidence.. today as this video release we have flooding spread on quite a lot of areas in jakarta's… including my house…

    Or… its not a coincidence.. but more to celebrate today's flooding.. 8D

  10. 1. Ignorance
    2. Corruption
    3. Lies

    As long as these three stays lingering around the government, things are not going to be better.

  11. Venice, Italy has been sinking for 2000 years, but the corrupt news media only screams about global warming.
    The big problem in Venice is sinking and much of the sinking was due to ground water being pumped out from under the city, decades ago.
    The other problem is natural subsidence which has been happening for 2000 years, because the city was built on top of a marshy swamp.


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