Climate change may wipe some Indonesian islands off map|
By Sugita Katyal and Adhityani Arga
Mon Dec 3, 2007 3:10am EST
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Many of Indonesia's islands may be swallowed up by the
sea if world leaders fail to find a way to halt rising sea levels at this week's
climate change conference on the resort island of Bali.
Doomsters take this dire warning by Indonesian scientists a step further and
predict that by 2035, the Indonesian capital's airport will be flooded by sea
water and rendered useless; and by 2080, the tide will be lapping at the steps
of Jakarta's imposing Dutch-era Presidential palace which sits 10 km inland
(about 6 miles).
The Bali conference is aimed at finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol,
which expires in 2012, on cutting climate warming carbon emissions. With over
17,000 islands, many at risk of being washed away, Indonesians are anxious to
see an agreement reached and quickly implemented that will keep rising seas at
Just last week, tides burst through sea walls, cutting a key road to
Jakarta's international airport until officials were able to reinforce coastal
"Island states are very vulnerable to sea level rise and very vulnerable to
storms. Indonesia ... is particularly vulnerable," Nicholas Stern, author of an
acclaimed report on climate change, said on a visit to Jakarta earlier this
Even large islands are at risk as global warming might shrink their land
mass, forcing coastal communities out of their homes and depriving millions of a
The island worst hit would be Java, which accounts for more than half of
Indonesia's 226 million people. Here rising sea levels would swamp three of the
island's biggest cities near the coast -- Jakarta, Surabaya and Semarang --
destroying industrial plants and infrastructure.
"Tens of millions of people would have to move out of their homes. There is
no way this will happen without conflict," Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar
"The cost would be very high. Imagine, it's not just about building better
infrastructure, but we'd have to relocate people and change the way people
live," added Witoelar, who has said that Indonesia could lose 2,000 of its
islands by 2030 if sea levels continue to rise.
CRUNCH TIME AT BALI
Environmentalists say this week's climate change meeting in Bali will be
crunch time for threatened coastlines and islands as delegates from nearly 190
countries meet to hammer out a new treaty on global warming.
Several small island nations including Singapore, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu and
Caribbean countries have raised the alarm over rising sea levels which could
wipe them off the map.
The Maldives, a cluster of 1,200 islands renowned for its luxury resorts, has
asked the international community to address climate change so it does not sink
into a watery grave.
According to a U.N. climate report, temperatures are likely to rise by
between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees Celsius (2.0 and 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) and sea
levels by between 18 cm and 59 cm (seven and 23 inches) this century.
Under current greenhouse gas emission levels, Indonesia could lose about
400,000 sq km of land mass by 2080, including about 10 percent of Papua, and 5
percent of both Java and Sumatra on the northern coastlines, Armi Susandi, a
meteorologist at the Bandung Institute of Technology, told Reuters.
Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous country, has faced intense
pressure over agricultural land for decades.
Susandi, who has researched the impact of climate change on Indonesia,
estimated sea levels would rise by an average of 0.5 cm a year until 2080, while
the submersion rate in Jakarta, which lies just above sea level, would be higher
at 0.87 cm a year.
A study by the UK-based International Institute for Economy and Development
(IIED) said at least 8 out of 92 of the outermost small islands that make up the
country's borders are vulnerable.
TOO MANY ISLANDS TO COUNT
Less than half of Indonesia's islands are inhabited and many are not even
named. Now, the authorities are hastily counting the coral-fringed islands that
span a distance of 5,000 km, the equivalent of going from Ireland to Iran,
before it is too late.
Disappearing islands and coastlines would not only change the Indonesian map,
but could also restrict access to mineral resources situated in the most
vulnerable spots, Susandi said.
He estimates that land loss alone would cost Indonesia 5 percent of its GDP
without taking into account the loss of property and livelihood as millions
migrate from low-lying coastlines to cities and towns on higher ground.
There are 42 million people in Indonesia living in areas less than 10 meters
above the average sea level, who could be acutely affected by rising sea levels,
the IIED study showed.
A separate study by the United Nations Environment Programme in 1992 showed
in two districts in Java alone, rising waters could deprive more than 81,000
farmers of their rice fields or prawn and fish ponds, while 43,000 farm laborers
would lose their job.
One solution is to cover Indonesia's fragile beaches with mangroves, the
first line of defense against sea level rise, which can break big waves and hold
back soil and silt that damage coral reefs.
A more expensive alternative is to erect multiple concrete walls on the
coastlines, as the United States has done to break the tropical storms that hit
its coast, Susandi said.
Some areas, including the northern shores of Jakarta, are already fitted with
concrete sea barriers, but they are often damaged or too low to block rising
waters and big waves such as the ones that hit Jakarta in November.
"It will be like permanent flooding," Susandi said. "By 2050, about 24
percent of Jakarta will disappear," possibly even forcing the capital to move to
Bandung, a hill city 180 km east of Jakarta.
(Editing by Megan Goldin)
Original article: Reuters
Fair Use Notice