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A sinking Indonesian island fights climate change

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on December 2, 2019 - Duration: 01:50s

A sinking Indonesian island fights climate change

Abdul Hadi's house sits lower than the road in a village on the island of Java - and below sea-level.

As floods worsen due to climate change and Java sinks due to the extraction of underground water, coastlines continue to get swallowed up by the sea, posing a serious threat to many like Habi who cannot afford to relocate.

Jayson Albano reports.

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A sinking Indonesian island fights climate change

The Indonesian island of Java is sinking.

Abdul Hadi sets aside money every few years just to elevate his house.

That's because it sits below sea-level.

(SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Indonesia) FISHERMAN ABDUL HADI SAYING: "It's always flooding, and my house is lower than the road." Hadi's house is now half its original height.

To make matters worse, his village is prone to tidal floods.

And they're only worsening.

But for Hadi - a low-income fisherman - and many others like him, relocation or renovation is simply not an option.

(SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Indonesia) FISHERMAN ABDUL HADI SAYING: "It is impossible for us to move due to economic reasons, so even though there are tidal floods, I'll stay." Hadi and his community blame the worsening floods on climate change and environmental destruction.

But Indonesia is an archipelago of thousands of islands.

That makes it more vulnerable to climate change.

The country is also home to more than a fifth of the world's mangrove forests, which help to keep the tide out.

But coastal communities have been chopping down these forests for years to make way for fish farms and rice paddies.

Coasts have gone completely underwater where some mangrove forests once stood.

Feri Prihantoro from the Bintari Foundation, an NGO with a focus on sustainable development, says that the Central Java coastline is especially vulnerable.

(SOUNDBITE) (Bahasa Indonesia) PROJECT MANAGER OF BINA KARTA LESTARI IN SEMARANG, FERI PRIHANTORO SAYING: There are two main issues: First, land sinks around 10 to 20 centimetres every year due to the extraction of underground water.

Second, the sea level has increased.

The two problems have caused flooding and high tides.

The capital Jakarta also sits on the island of Java.

Two-fifths of the city now lie below sea-level and is prone to flooding.

President Joko Widodo's solution: Move the capital to the island of Borneo instead.

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