INDONESIA ON THE BRINK OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Rising sea levels are sinking Jakarta faster than any other city on Earth and people are losing their homeland. The environmental cost is unbearable and Indonesians are forced to relocate their capital city to the tropical rain forests of Borneo
Words: Aleksandra Georgieva
Photography: Radoslav Bali, Magdalena Love, Kal Visuals
21 August 2020
Imagine a place like a hundred countries blended into one. Every person different from the next, much like the land that covers over 17,000 of the surrounding islands. A kaleidoscope of humanity, flora, fauna, scenery, culture and food. There is a place on Earth just like this – a land with massive potential for exploration and adventure.
Spread for 5000km across the equator, one finds the beguiling nation of Indonesia. Here diversity is what unifies people. Every island is unique. Sumatra hosts an army of 100 volcanoes, some still active, while Sulawesi's coastlines treasure diving haunts and white-sand beaches. The Balinese culture is deeply embedded in the mystery of the spiritual, while the Asmat people of Papua still preserve the animist belief system dating back to ancient times. Tales of the twisted history of the Banda Islands are whispered among locals while Jakarta buzzes with tourist crowds. The idyllic harmony in nature leave humbling and almost heart-stopping views of wild animals, coexisting in plain sight among unspoilt nature.
The Indonesian wilderness greets you with the promise that yours are the first footsteps to grace the land. This country is a rare place to visit on this planet. It intoxicates you with a sense of adventure while you sail the empty sea past the Kei Islands or sit at the open door train to Java. An orang-utan will swing past you through the trees. Ancient ruins will lay at your feet guarding tales of the times the mystifying West Timor village was built from the ground up.
Indonesia is a land like no other. A kaleidoscope of islands, people, nature and adventures that spoil any human fortunate enough to have experienced the Indonesian charm. But Indonesia is not what ancient times remember it to be. It is no longer simply a land of great adventures. It is 2020 and a new era is upon us. Humanity creates a lifestyle that leaves a print on every destination across the globe. Like a haunting ghost that stretches its hands, the effects of global warming touch even the most remote regions on the planet – from the overpopulated megalopolis cities to the least inhabited places on Earth. From the highest peaks to the deepest ocean floors and from the deepest forests to every coast humanity leaves a footprint.
It is 2020 and a new era is upon us. Humanity creates a lifestyle that leaves a print on every destination across the globe.
It is 2020 and Indonesia is sinking. Late last year it was announced that the capital city of Jakarta faces an unmanageable climate threat. President Joko Widodo said the burden on Jakarta was “too heavy” and Indonesians will soon have a new capital – the island of Borneo, home to some of the world’s greatest tropical rain forests. However, the move comes at a great economic cost. The relocation will cost $33bn, or if done improperly, fleeing one ecological catastrophe will only lead to another.
The coastal city of Jakarta is extremely vulnerable to the rising sea levels, which have been imposing a great and constant threat on coastal cities across the globe in recent decades. Traffic congestion, unregulated draining and pollution are just the tip of the iceberg that is taking Jakarta underwater. The neighbourhoods at highest risk are already sinking by 20cm per year – faster than any other area in the world.
Jakarta is the home to nearly 10 million residents. The majority of the people are likely to remain in the city, which is predicted to remain a significant financial and commercial centre. Yet, the administrative functions of Jakarta are to be moved about 1,000km to Kalimantan, which is part of the island of Borneo, also shared with Brunei and Malaysia. The government states that relocating the capital city closer to the centre of all 17,000 islands aims to create a more positive environmental impact and to tackle some of the inequality issues among the local residents. While the planning minister Bambang Brodjonegoro ensures citizens will rehabilitate rather than disturb the existing forests, conservationists fear the pressure such relocation would bring upon the rain forest habit species.
The word refuge used to apply only to those seeking shelter from humanitarian and economic conflicts such as war times but in modern times there is one more factor to add to the list of life-threatening factors that entire nations around the globe fight on daily basis. The concept of an environmental refugee is beginning to take shape and people will merely be the ones to set the path that so many other species might follow. With the death of entire regions of tropical rain forests, rare species such as the endangered orang-utans are on the brink of extinction.
Whatever the future holds for the vivid nation of Indonesians, one thing is for sure – the effects of climate change are already taking a toll upon the country’s nature and the local citizens. Global warming sinks entire cities underwater, kills tropical crops, forces animal species outside their natural habitat. Jakarta is merely one of many examples of people forced outside the borders of their homeland due to devastating consequences of climate change.
NOMADSofORIGIN is an independent annual publication with a focus on sustainable travelling and global cultural values. Each issue features interviews, engaging articles and photo guides, which take our nomadic readers through different destinations and introduce them to local people's perspectives.
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