Indonesians pay high price to shield homes from rising sea levels

1 / 2
Bamboo sticks and nets are used as barriers at Tambakrejo village, which is affected by rising sea level and land subsidence, in Semarang, central Java in Indonesia. (Reuters)
2 / 2
A damaged wooden boat is pictured as a man fishes at Tambaklorok village, which has been affected by rising sea level and land subsidence, in Semarang, Central Java province of Indonesia. (Reuters)
Updated 01 December 2019

Indonesians pay high price to shield homes from rising sea levels

  • ‘If you have a house on land and then work at sea, it’s hard. But now I work at sea and I live at sea’
  • Millions of people face risk of a sinking coastline on Indonesia’s most populous island of Java

TAMBAKLOROK, Indonesia: Indonesian fisherman Miskan says the once-abundant catches he used to enjoy have been dwindling in recent years on this stretch of the Java Sea.
His meagre income is being further strained by having to borrow cash to shore up his home against lapping waves coming further inland on this vulnerable coastline.
“If you have a house on land and then work at sea, it’s hard. But now I work at sea and I live at sea,” said Miskan, 44, who uses one name, speaking outside his small home, where a caged songbird hangs from the rafters.
His community’s battle against inundation, blamed on both man-made environmental destruction and the impact of climate change, reflects the risks posed to millions of people by a sinking coastline on Indonesia’s most populous island of Java.
The flooding in Tambaklorok in Central Java province is now so bad that Miskan uses a window to enter his home since his door is half blocked by dirt piled up to keep out the sea.
“It’s hard to save money when you’re a fisherman,” he said.
Miskan had to borrow from neighbors to pay roughly 7.2 million rupiah ($500) to hire workers to truck in earth.
Thousands of people in Asia and Europe joined rallies demanding more action on climate change on Friday, aiming to force political leaders to come up with urgent solutions at a United Nations conference that starts on Monday.
Indonesia, an archipelago of thousands of islands, has about 81,000 km (50,300 miles) of coastline, making it particularly vulnerable to climate change along with neighbors like the Philippines.
It is also home to more than a fifth of the world’s mangrove forests, which naturally help keep out high tidal waters. But for years, coastal communities have chopped down mangrove forests to clear the way for fish and shrimp farms, and for rice paddies.
The government has scrambled to work with environmental groups to replant mangroves, build dykes and relocate threatened villages.
But many residents, often poor fishermen, are either reluctant to leave their homes or simply have nowhere to go further inland on Java, home to around 140 million people.
“It is impossible for us to move due to economic reasons, so even though there’s tidal floods, I’ll stay,” said Abdul Hadi, whose house in Tambaklorok is now below sea levels and the road.
Another villager, Solihatun, 51, regularly needs her roof removed so that the height of the walls can be raised as earth is spread in and around her house. She says the flooding is sometimes so bad her grandchildren can swim in the living room.
“Thank God for bank loans, so it’s easier to pay off the debt every month,” she said, adding she had spent over 5 million rupiah for the last renovation.
Feri Prihantoro of the Bina Karta Lestari Foundation, a non-government organization (NGO) focused on sustainable development, said the area’s coastline was particularly vulnerable to flooding and high tides due to land subsidence because of the extraction of underground water and higher sea levels.
Further along the Java coast, Jakarta is also prone to flooding with two-fifths of the city lying below sea level.
With this partly in mind, President Joko Widodo announced in August a $33 billion plan to move the capital to Borneo island.


Jailed Wikileaks founder Assange no longer in solitary, health improving

Updated 19 February 2020

Jailed Wikileaks founder Assange no longer in solitary, health improving

  • Assange was moved from solitary confinement in the medical wing to a different part of the prison with 40 other inmates
  • WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson: He has improved thanks to the pressure from his legal team, the general public, and amazingly, actually from other inmates

LONDON: Jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is no longer being kept in solitary confinement and his health is improving, his spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told reporters on Tuesday.
Assange, 48, is in Belmarsh high-security prison in London, fighting an extradition request from the United States where he faces 18 counts including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law. He could spend decades in prison if convicted.
His supporters had expressed concern about the state of his health after he appeared confused during a court hearing in October, struggling to recall his age and name and saying he was unable to think properly.
Assange was moved from solitary confinement in the medical wing to a different part of the prison with 40 other inmates after his legal team and prisoners complained that his treatment was unfair, Hrafnsson said.
“I saw him about 10 days ago — he has improved thanks to the pressure from his legal team, the general public, and amazingly, actually from other inmates in Belmarsh Prison to get him out of isolation,” Hrafnsson said ahead of an extradition hearing that starts next week.
Australian-born Assange made global headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published a classified US military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.
WikiLeaks later angered the United States by publishing caches of leaked military documents and diplomatic cables.
Assange has consistently presented himself as a champion of free speech being persecuted for exposing abuses of power. But his critics paint him as a dangerous figure complicit in Russian efforts to undermine the West.
He fled to the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning about allegations of sex crimes which have since been dropped. He spent seven years holed up in the embassy until Ecuador decided to stop giving him refuge and he was dragged out last May.
Earlier, a group of doctors representing 117 physicians and psychologists from 18 nations called in a letter for an end to what they described as “the psychological torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange.”
His father, John Shipton, said Assange’s long confinement indoors had damaged his health and feared that sending his son to the US would be akin to a “death sentence.”
“His situation is dire, he has had nine years of ceaseless psychological torture where false accusations are constantly being made,” he told reporters.