Rising Sea Level Contaminates Groundwater in Coastal Towns of Jakarta

Rising sea water due to climate change is threatening the coastal towns of Jakarta, impacting on the quality of groundwater which people depend on for their daily lives, and increasing the sanitation and hygiene risk of the residents. This threat is in addition to the existing rubbish pollution problem in Jakarta waters.

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Inah, age 52, local resident at Cilincing, North Jakarta, said everyone uses groundwater from wells for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing.

“I have lived here all my life.  With the rise of sea water, I have seen changes to the residential layout.  I also noticed a bad smell from the water in the wells.  Now, we don’t drink water from the wells but buy from fresh water sellers,” said Inah.

Children walking on traditional bridge over river rubbish. Jakarta, Indonesia, July 16, 2022.

Another resident, Zuremi, 40, said nobody drinks from the wells anymore and only uses groundwater for washing or bathing.  “The water from the wells smells really bad the closer the wells are to the sea.  Also, the water quality gets worse after a flood.  I live quite a distance away from the sea but still, the groundwater smells bad.”

The water is full of rubbish. Cilincing, Jakarta, Indonesia, August 13, 2022.  

Water sanitation at risk

Tarkinah, 44, who house is close to the sea, said the groundwater now tastes salty.  “I work as a snack seller near the beach and I always bring a few liters of fresh water which I bought for preparing and cooking food, and making drinks for customers.  I need to go back and forth to replenish my stock of fresh water a few times during my business hours.  Buying fresh water adds to my cost and reduces my earnings.”

Children playing near water. Cilincing, Jakarta, Indonesia, August 13, 2022.  

Residents spend more money to buy fresh water

Inah said: “Now that we cannot use the contaminated groundwater for daily uses, we have to buy fresh water.  Fresh water is a necessity of life.  We are poor people and I hope the government can help us.”

Tarkinah said she pays about INR 12,000 for fresh water every day for her family of four, sometimes more if her husband and two children use more water.  Of course, for big families, they will have to pay more. Spending more money is indeed a direct effect of rising sea water.

A fresh water seller. Cilincing, Jakarta, Indonesia, July 9, 2022. 

All photos credit: Iqro Rinaldi.

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Iqro Rinaldi

Iqro Rinaldi

Seeing the reality, writing the truth, painting the light. This triangle concept is what I live by as a journalist. With 10 years of photojournalist experience around Jakarta, including the sea coast, I love every little thing about nature and humanity.

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