Jakarta’s Islands Submerged in Apathy (and Rising Sea Levels)
Why is it that Jakarta is the only city in Indonesia to have grown so much? Is it just because it is the capital? That is certainly a factor, but not necessarily the only factor.
Like New York — which has by far the largest population of any city in the United States, with a little over eight million inhabitants — Jakarta, which is older than New York, is ideally situated for maximum growth. It is on a vast, almost flat plain that made it easy to extend infrastructure and to build anywhere. Its coastal line was easily transformed into a wide seaport.
But I feel it is also important to emphasize two nearby blessings that help make Jakarta attractive: more than 100 warm and sunny islands with a variety of beaches to the north, and cool, rainy highlands to the south. Both can be reached in an hour or two, either by boat or car. Not many cities in the world have access to natural amenities like that.
But sadly, the highlands to the south, including Puncak and its surroundings, have been destroyed and turned into, more or less, a “slum.” And Jakartans have ventured further into Bandung to get their “cool” weekend retreats.
As for their “warm” weekends, Jakartans have actually started venturing further west to more remote beaches such as those in Banten. Not many really go to the Thousand Islands, the exaggerated name for those 100 plus islands to the north. Some of these islands actually have quite beautiful shallow coral reefs that you can go snorkeling around. Pulau Macan is one of these. Some are very quite and serene, despite their being so close to the bustling metropolis. But still, people prefer to go to Bali or Singapore.
By the way, the majority of tourists in Singapore are Indonesians, of course, more than two million of them per year, in fact. They spend more than a trillion rupiah there annually.
It’s a real pity so few go to the Thousand Islands. But everybody knows that it is not really convenient to get there. It starts with a smelly departure from the black coastal waters.
And did you know that, among those islands, there are oil and gas wells that have contributed about Rp 100 to Rp 130 billion ($11.7 million to $15.2 million) per year to Jakarta’s own coffers, and much more to Indonesia’s national coffers? The islanders living out there —about 22,000—have also contributed tons of fish that we on the “mainland” consume every day.
I feel that we should start looking at those islands more as Jakarta’s front yard, instead of our backyard. And the people there are as deserving as other Jakartans of having 24-hour electricity, uninterrupted fresh water supplies, easy transportation for their children to go to school, etc.
And, what will be left of them in 25 years, when the sea level, according to some studies, will have risen by at least 80 centimeters? An unconfirmed source told me that, in the last decade alone, five of the islands have actually been submerged by rising sea levels.
Where will the other 22,000 people go? Do they have plans? Does the government have a plan? Do they need help?
Perhaps you would like to visit them before it is too late.