Jakarta – When it comes to news about the further deterioration of human life and the environment in Jakarta, not much is disconcerting to the city's residents – or anyone across the archipelago, for that matter. Apathy aside, Jakartans need to redouble their efforts to develop and maintain sustainable living in the megalopolis.
Earlier this month, city-owned utilities company PAM Jaya said 90 percent of the capital would sink by 2050 from the overextraction of groundwater. Sadly, this statement did not cause ripples, either in the press or on social media. This is likely due to one part scientific skepticism, but another, much larger part is a crippled sense of urgency.
A study by the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) predicts that without aggressive measures from all stakeholders, 40 percent of Jakarta will subside by 2050. A recent study by the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) projects a subsidence area of "only" 25 percent in the same period.
While neither figure is as high as 90 percent, none should offer any consolation in terms of the number of lives and communities that will be affected. The different, but equally disconcerting prognoses seem to pose a question of will: Which projection will be our self-fulfilling prophecy?
The fact is Jakarta is sinking, and at a truly alarming rate.
Recent modeling by ITB's geodesy research division suggests that roughly 9,000 hectares, or 14 percent of the city's area, is already below sea level. The figure could double if land subsidence is left unchecked, with some parts of the city sinking as much as 4 meters in the next two decades.
The dramatic rate at which Jakarta is sinking is mainly due to excessive extraction of groundwater on a daily basis for drinking water, bathing and other purposes, by residents as well as large buildings, such as hotels, apartments and shopping malls.
In January, the central government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Jakarta administration to accelerate the development of public water systems to expand the distribution of tap water supply, which the government regards as critical to halting land subsidence in the capital.
While pushing for strategic policy efforts, Jakarta should also drive a more grounded campaign, getting all hands on deck for day-to-day water management: use as little groundwater as possible, waste as little water as possible, and catch as much water as possible.
As the pandemic has shown, water is a vital resource that must reach all segments of society. As such, every person who lives or works in the capital must do our part to ensure that our water is managed safely and sustainably.
This means that all 10.6 million registered Jakarta residents, as well as the hundreds of thousands of daily commuters and unregistered migrants, should be an active part of this campaign. Meanwhile, all 3.6 million Jakarta households can and should contribute every day through water saving activities.
Any activity, no matter how small, will be multiplied by a factor of millions if everyone pitches in. To put it another way, Jakartans need to get our hands dirty before they can be cleaned of our role in sinking the city.