Christian Obermayr

Cities – Urbanization – Governance – Global South – Housing – Policies – Slums – Informality – Indonesia

The Great Sea Wall – a massive Development Plan to rebuild Jakarta | Süddeutsche Zeitung

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Jakarta is known for its problems with annual flood events. Due to the massive extraction of groundwater for the growing number of more than 10 million inhabitants the built-up area is submerging at high rates. In some areas rates of 10 to 20 cm per year are common and more than half of the city is already located below the sea level. And if that was not bad enough, climate change is causing a slowly rising sea-level threatening to swallow the metropolis sooner or later.

The Great Sea Wall (Foto: KuiperCompagnons)

Now, a massive plan was developed to ‘rescue’ the city. By an investment of an estimated 20 billion US$ the city shall be protected by a great sea wall, 22m in height and 32km in length. Forming a Garuda, a mythical bird-like creature which is frequently used as a national symbol in Indonesia, the wall will be complemented by the creation of a new Jakarta: the ‘Waterfront City”. Glittering skyscrapers, expensive apartment blocks, shopping malls, green areas traversed by clean river channels will create a new city, a new Jakarta.

But whose city will that be? Will there be any housing units for the poor? How many kampungs must be evicted? Do Jakarta’s ordinary residents really profit from this project? Or is it only another fancy scheme to raise the profits of Indonesia’s upper class, international planning consultants and large private construction companies?

What is clear though is that this project will devour Indonesia’s resources for the next 25 years. Funds desperately needed for the improvement of the city’s slum settlements, sewage channels, traffic system etc. etc. will be diverted for a new city, a citadel for the rich. Even if the technical aspect of the project is a success increasing Jakarta’s resilience against flooding, the social costs might be too high resulting in a more fragmented and unequal city than before.

See more @Süddeutsche Zeitung (article in German): Architektur – Gewaltige Mauer im Meer soll Jakarta retten

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