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To save itself, Jakarta is building one of the biggest sea walls on Earth

Courtesy of KuiperCompagnons
A rendering of the project.
By Amy X. Wang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

More than 10 million people currently live in the fast-growing Indonesian capital of Jakarta. There’s a potential snag in the city’s future expansion, though: it’s slowly sinking into the ocean.

Jakarta sinks an average of three inches a year, and parts of the coast are going down as much as 11 inches a year, according to geodynamic experts. Around 40% of the city is already below sea level.

In an attempt to halt the damage, authorities are building a gigantic wall off the coast, measuring 25 miles (40 kilometers) long and 80 feet (24 meters) high, National Geographic reports. To fund the $40 billion and 30-year-long project, the city will also create 17 artificial islands, on which developers can build luxury homes, offices, and shopping malls. Though it’s expensive, the seawall is expected to ultimately be cheaper than the cost of flooding.

Here’s a sketch of the planned seawall, from KuiperCompagnons, a Dutch firm helping to design the plan.

If it gets the green light, aerial views of the completed wall and islands together will reveal the shape of a Garuda: a legendary, bird-like creature considered a national emblem of Indonesia.

There are, however, doubts about the idea. A government study says the wall could spell environmental disaster, and many critics argue that the massive construction project would worsen corruption while failing to address the real problem.

“It’s treating the symptoms, not the cause,” Swiss Federal Institute of Technology professor Christophe Girot told National Geographic, claiming most of the sinking is due to people illegally extracting groundwater for free fresh water. City officials started building the first phase of the wall last year, and will soon make a decision about whether to continue with the other two phases.

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