Jakarta’s Airport Could Be Under Water Soon: Minister

By webadmin on 11:44 pm Jul 31, 2009
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Fidelis E Satriastanti

The state environment minister warned on Friday that Soekarno-Hatta International Airport would need to be relocated to higher ground because the current location could be under water within 20 years.

“This is a prediction and I am just delivering the message to other sectors so that we can be aware of what’s going on here,” Rachmat Witoelar said. “However, I am not addressing the issue officially and the government is not considering any relocation plans at the moment.

“[The relocation] should be considered from now on, because we can’t just count on the mangroves,” he said, referring to one limited strategy that has been adopted to counter rising sea levels and subsidence.

“[Mangroves] would only last for 10 years and its impact would only cover a limited area,” he said, adding that sea water could be lapping at the base of the National Monument in Central Jakarta by 2040.

Witoelar said that relocation plans for the airport were not actually new, with the lifespan of past airports being 30 years.

“We used to have the airport in Kemayoran and then moved to Halim [Perdanakusuma] and now in Cengkareng, so I guess it is just a standard procedure for 30-year terms,” he said.

Meanwhile, Armi Susandi, a Bandung Institute of Technology climatologist, said the airport would likely be under water by 2035, followed by most of the rest of the capital by 2050 if preventive measures were not adopted.

“There are two actions to prevent this from happening,” he said. “First, by planting mangroves through the coastal areas in the north. Second, by building a nine-meter-high sea wall made of concrete, just like a fortress, to protect the coastal areas.”

Armi said the prediction was based on sea level increases of 0.57 centimeters per year, which were considered extreme.

“The city is also facing rapid land subsidence, at 0.8 centimeters per year, because of groundwater exploitation,” he said, adding that there should be disincentives for using groundwater in Jakarta.

Armi said the government would have to take permanent measures based on technology, and not just plant mangroves.

“In northern areas, there will be significant changes causing more tidal floods,” he said, adding that coupled with constant heavy rains the tidal floods could be devastating.

The areas of North Jakarta most vulnerable to tidal flooding are mainly industrial areas surrounded by densely populated villages.