Surviving in a Sinking City

The Rapid Growth of People in the City

High School Student in Jakarta

In 2010, there are around 10,000 people live in 1 km2 in Jakarta.

My teacher assigned us a report about the effect of population growth on water availability. I never realized that Jakarta is very dense, the densest city in the world! The population in Jakarta grows very fast. At this rate of growth (3.7% per year), the population of Jakarta would double between 2000 and 2020! All of these people need water to drink.

Indonesian children

Our Water is So Expensive!

High School Student in Jakarta

At some point, do you think we will run out of water in Jakarta?

All of those people need water. My family uses a lot of water for drinking, bathing, and washing needs. In my house, we use water pumped from the soil, like 75% of Jakarta population. My mom wanted to connect our house to the municipal water supply, but it was too expensive for us. My dad said we can keep pumping the groundwater. In the area where my grandparents live, the connection is simply not available. Groundwater is their only source of water.

Man selling water in tank

No Water Supply, No Water Treatment!

High School Student in Jakarta

The factories in my neighborhood also rely on groundwater. This exacerbates the subsidence.

After they use water, the wastewater is dumped directly into surface water. The water is so smelly and dirty! I read that all of this dirty water infiltrates into the very groundwater aquifer used for my drinking water. Some of my friends have skin infections because of this water.

In one of my friend's houses, their groundwater has a very strange smell. A lot of people in that area are looking for new sources. They drill more wells into new parts of the aquifer.

© Elisabetta Zavoli | Jakarta, the Sinking Megacity

Political Distrust in Jakarta Water Abstraction

High School Student in Jakarta

The city's government tried so many different ways to reduce the groundwater abstraction and increase its recharge.

The government suggested we dig 3-foot-deep “biopore cylinders” to absorb and store rainwater. Yesterday we made a biopore at our school. The factories also need to pay fees of up to 1 billion rupiah and have a jail term up to 6 years if they still abstract groundwater after 2008. But nobody knows if this will actually solve the problem. We still have problems. In this condition, it is hard to trust that the government can solve them.