[Masyarakat & Budaya, Volume 23, Number 22, November 2021]

By Laely Nurhidayah (BRIN Researcher)

IPCC Assessment Report (AR 6) has released on 9 August 2021, it introduced new high-end risk scenario stating that a global rise is approaching 2 m by 2100 and 5 m by 2150 under a very high greenhouse gas emissions scenario cannot be ruled out due to deep uncertainty in ice sheet processes (IPCC, 2021). Based on the projection by IPCC, NASA also created Sea level projection tools which predict the future sea level rise accessible to the public.  What this new IPCC AR 6 Report means for Indonesia?

Indonesia is archipelagic and is vulnerable to climate impact such as sea level rise. This impact has been observed in several coastal cities such as Jakarta, Semarang and Demak. Highly populated and low laying delta such as Jakarta are highly vulnerable to sea level rise. Joe Biden in his speech recently has predicted that Jakarta will be sinking in 10 years and may have to move their capital otherwise they will be underwater.  Joe Biden could be cited the research from The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA assesses that Jakarta is very at risk and prone to drowning due to a combination of many factors, climate change, the growing population, as well as ground water exploitation in the Indonesian capital.

Joe Biden’ speech has provoked reaction from many parties including the Deputy of Governor and media which disagree to Biden prediction.   The combination of sea level rise and land subsidence is the main threat to coastal cities such as Jakarta.  Despite, there is uncertainty in determining annual sea level rise estimates and in making projections for the coming decades, but it is argued that modest sea level rise has the potential to have severe consequences for coastal communities.   Land subsidence rate in Jakarta according to several studies is in average between 5-10 cm or 130 times faster than sea level rise and in some locations can reached 20 cm per year. Excessive drainage of ground water extraction is the main factor contribute to land subsidence in Jakarta.

The impact of SLR have been observed in North of Jakarta, Semarang and Demak.  For those who living in North of Jakarta experiencing coastal inundation in monthly basis.  Adaptation is the only action that the government can take to stop Jakarta and other coastal cities from sinking. Adaptation has recently become a focus of policy action and concern especially in developing countries with low lying coastal areas (Adger et al., 2006). There is no uniform view on what kind of adaptation measures should be chosen in the legislation for adaptation in coastal areas (Nicholas et al., 2007). These approaches include: protection, accommodation and retreat.

Adaptation Options

Wider range of adaptation options will reduce the impact of SLR. I have conducted research on addressing sea level rise in coastal cities in Indonesia including Jakarta, Semarang and Demak.  There are several barriers to effectively implement adaptation plans in Indonesia including: legislation, coordination, lack of community engagement and lack coordination of land and marine spatial planning. There are several adaptation options that government can take to reduce the impact of SLR. These include as follows:

  1. Effective climate change Law

Legislation plays a significant role in providing a basis for promoting climate change adaptation, improving social justice and adaptive capacity (Hurlimann et al., 2013).  Based on the examination of existing legislation in Indonesia indicates that Indonesia addresses climate change impacts through adaptation which is embodied in the legislation in several sectors and is formulated under national policy documents.

Based on the analysis the legal framework on climate change adaptation (Figure 1), tends to be more focused on structural measures, rather than non-structural measures, for example, in addressing sea level rise the government chooses on building infrastructure such as sea wall to reduce sea level rise, as opposed to maintaining coastal mangrove forest or improving community resilient.

Table 1 Legal and Policies Options of CCA Framework Addressing Sea Level Rise in Indonesia

Legislative Framework Adaptation options Institutional
Hazard based approach Resilience and vulnerability approach
Law No 32/2014 on Sea


Referred to National disaster prevention and management system Law No 24/2007







BNPB (National Disaster Management Agency)
Law No 27/2007 on Management of Coastal Areas and Small Island


Beach protection Zone

Coastal planning and zonation (ICZM)







Local Government



Local Government

Law No 32/2009 on Environmental Management

Law No 41/1999 Forestry Law

Law No 5/1990 Law on Conservation of Living Resources and Their Ecosystem


Protection of mangrove forests









  The Ministry of Environment and Forestry
Law No 24/2007 on Disaster Management Law

Does not explicitly make reference to climate change and SLR, However, it can be considered as provide DRR framework





BNPB (National Disaster Management Agency)

BPBD (Local Disaster Management Agency

Law No. 7/2016 on Protection and empowerment of small-scale fisher, aquaculture farmer and salt farmer    


The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries


There is also a significant gap in the current legislation in Indonesia in the area of addressing adaptation due to sea level rise. It has been argued that adaptation is a far more complex legal problem than mitigation (Craig, 2010). In addition, adaptation laws need to cope with multilevel layers of government administrations and interests in Indonesia’s many islands and regions. Thus, the current sectoral approach in legislation may not be adequate in addressing the impact of sea level rise which requires multi-level layers of government involvement and coordination.  The analysis revealed there is lack of guidance in the legislation on how to involve the community in decision making, especially on challenges such as climate change adaptation measures.  Therefore, Indonesia needs specific legislation on climate change law (Nurhidayah and Mcllgorm, 2019).

  1. Moratorium ground water extraction

To reduce the land subsidence rate in Jakarta or Semarang the government need to do extreme measures such as to do moratorium of ground water extraction and providing surface water through PDAM for industries and local communities.  It seems impossible task as PDAM could not yet have capacity to provide water supply from surface water and the practice of illegal use of groundwater which had reached “alarming levels.”  There is also questioning about law enforcement for example Jakarta imposes fines of up to 1 billion rupiah ($80,000) and jail terms of six years for those who misuse groundwater.  Law enforcement and the expansion of the government to find and provide reliable water supply from hills and mountain such as Bogor could be one way solution.

  1. Sea Wall and Mangrove Forest

To protect the communities, live near coastal areas from coastal flooding and inundation, the government can implement sea wall as barrier or mangrove forest.  Jakarta has implemented sea wall in North Jakarta and it soon will be 100 percent finish.  In addition, the local government together with National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD) project, a consortium of Dutch firms, has proposed to build a giant sea wall, in the shape of the Garuda and reclamation which this proposal create controversies in academics and communities.  These two projects are creating controversy and led to criticism and rejection by small scale fishers, who are concerned their livelihood will be affected by the projects including the fishers in North Jakarta. Therefore, giant sea wall project plan in mean time is being abandoned.   Mangrove forest has been grown in some location in North Jakarta by communities and NGOs. However in Semarang and Demak the existing mangrove forest are threatened by sea wall and toll road project.

  1. Spatial Planning and building code

Retreat is the last solution for reducing the damage to properties of communities live near disaster prone areas.  Relocation of communities living in coastal areas in North Jakarta to allow some green space areas, water catchment and river engineering is inevitable.  The relocation was executed around Pluit Reservoir, Fish Market, and KaliJodo, where slums were relocated to Rusunawa. This relocation to some extends create dilemma and rejection from communities as government could not provide alternative livelihood for the communities being relocated.  The government should also provide and develop coastal building code guidelines to provide statewide uniformity in the adoption of coastal regencies and municipalities. This coastal building code will provide the structural design standards for construction within that portion of the beach and dune system which is subject to erosion, and coastal flooding.

Way Forward

Sea level rise is predicted to increase in future based on IPCC AR 6 projection and it is real threat to coastal cities such as Jakarta.  To stop Jakarta and other coastal cities from sinking the government needs to take adaptation action plans.

Holistic adaptation approaches are needed. This includes enacting new specific legislation on climate change law in Indonesia, improve coordination between institutions, and engage with all stakeholders include communities and academics, NGOs and industries for effective implementation of adaptation action plans (Editor Al Araf Assadallah Marzuki).


Illustration: Shutterstock

Craig, Robin Kundis, 2010, Stationarity is dead- long live transformation: five principles for climate change adaptation law,  Harvard Environmental Law Review, 34 (1), 9-75

Hurlimann, Anna;, Barnett, John; Fincher, Ruth; Osbaldinton, Nick; Mortreux, Collete;  Graham, Sonia; 2013, Urban Planning and sustainable adaptation to sea level rise, Landscape Urban Planning, 126, 84-93

IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson- Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu, and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.

Nurhidayah, Laely; Mcllgorm, Alistair; 2019, Coastal adaptation laws and the social justice of policies to address sea level rise: An Indonesian Insight, Ocean and Coastal Management Journal, 171, 11-18


*) Opinions in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and are not the responsibility of the PMB BRIN website redaction


About the Author

Laely Nurhidayah is researcher at the Research Center for Society and culture- Indonesian Institute of Sciences (PMB-LIPI) Jakarta, Indonesia. She graduated from school of Law Macquarie University in 2015 and awarded PHD in Law. She earned bachelor and master degree in law from Jenderal Soedirman University and The University of Queensland respectively in 2000 and 2003.  She is INGSA Research associate in 2018-2019. Her Research interests is in the areas of environmental law, climate change adaptation and forest and marine governance. Email: lae_ly@yahoo.com