Dealing with Greater Jakarta floods in times of climate change

Over the last decade the persistent flooding of Jakarta has worsened. Home to 30 million people, the recent major flooding of Jakarta occurred on 1 January, leading to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. Researchers from the Water, Climate & Future Deltas hub contributed their insights on flood governance and future uncertainty to a focus group discussion at the Indonesian Embassy on dealing with floods in Jakarta.

Physical and anthropogenic causes
The root causes of flooding problems are both physical and anthropogenic. Among the key drivers of flooding are excessive extraction of groundwater and soil compactions due to heavy construction loads, causing land subsidence problems. Climate change and associated impacts such as sea-level rise and extreme rainfall also exacerbated the intensity of the flood in Jakarta.

Implementation of measures
In addition to the physical drivers, lack of awareness, fragmentation of policies and uncoordinated policy implementation also caused ineffectiveness of flood protection measures. Since colonial times Jakarta has mainly adopted hard infrastructure flood mitigation measures, such as dikes, concrete embankments, and sea walls. These are currently failing to protect the community from flooding. Meanwhile, alternative flood mitigation measures such as ecological and hybrid engineering are also gaining attention. The remaining question is how appropriate the implementation of different types of measures are in Jakarta’s local context.

Social, ecological and human rights impact
We need to look at the anthropogenic cause of flooding and give more attention to the social and ecological impacts of hard infrastructure as flood mitigation measures. Public participation should be increased and the human rights and justice dimension needs to be addressed, especially when dealing with the impact of flooding on vulnerable populations.

Focus group discussion at the Embassy
These are the main messages from the focus group discussion ‘Dealing with Greater Jakarta Floods in Times of Climate Change’ held at the Indonesian Embassy to the Kingdom of The Netherlands in The Hague on 27 February. Over 70 experts, researchers, students, NGO representatives, consultants, and policymakers participated in the event, which was collaboratively organised by the Task Force Liveable Cities IDN-NL and TYK research & action consulting in partnership with the Indonesian Embassy in The Hague.

Water and Climate Future Deltas hub
Researchers from the Water and Climate Future Deltas hub of Pathways to Sustainability were involved in the workshop and especially contributed multi- and interdisciplinary input during the focus group discussion. The hub also presented research insights on flood governance challenges and opportunities, and the dimension of future uncertainty and complexity, which should be taken into account when developing flood mitigation and climate change adaptation measures and policy in the longer term.

Recommendations and action plan
As a result of the workshop, the participants wrote a policy brief with concrete recommendations aimed at informing the trade mission and official state visit of Dutch King Willem Alexander and Queen Máxima to Indonesia from 8-13 March. Enhancing cooperation between Indonesia and the Netherlands in the water management sector was one of the aims of the state visit. The workshop participants also drafted a plan of actions, including the initiation of a platform that brings together the expertise of knowledge and identifies knowledge gaps for action.

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