“Previously the weather change was manageable. Now the weather in recent years has gotten worse. It has become more difficult to sail the sea, especially for those using rowing boats. The sea is not safe for us anymore.”
Betsina Petikotik, Lermatang, Fisherman, Tanimbar Island
Situated along the Eurasian and Australian tectonic plates, Indonesia has a long history of environmental disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Sumatra and other parts of the archipelago are affected by both the northeast and southwest monsoon and, as a result, suffer from regular floods and landslides. In addition to these environmental challenges, Indonesia is also experiencing the impacts of climate change. The islands of Java and Sumatra, together with Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, which is home to some 9.6 million people, are low lying, and rising sea levels leave these areas more vulnerable to coastal flooding. A recent report by the Asian Development Bank estimated the numbers of Indonesians at risk of coastal flooding by 2050 will be as high as 20.5 million. Rising temperatures will lead to a deterioration in air quality in Jakarta causing increased respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. Rainfall changes have led to drought in some provinces, which in turn has reduced agricultural production. Equally, in some regions, rainfall has become excessive: torrential rain across Indonesia in January 2013 caused extreme challenges in Jakarta, where 20,000 were forced out of their homes. This rain is reportedly the heaviest since 2007. In parts of Indonesia deforestation has been widespread, exacerbating the effects of climate change and leaving populations more vulnerable to landslides when disasters strike.
“I live on the island of Kapoposang in Matiro, Ujung Village, which is in the Spermonde Archipelago, in South Sulawesi. I have been speargun fishing in these waters since I was a child but now I have noticed changes. Parts of the coral are white and algae has started growing on them. If I consider the coral reefs today there are not as many things to catch. There are fewer fish because the reef is broken. I can spend the whole day motoring around, paddling and swimming, I’ll try everything. Sometimes I don’t catch any fish and we’ll go a whole day without eating any. These days, the coral reefs are around Kapoposang are degrading. If the reefs continue to degrade then there won’t be any fish here. There won’t be anything left for us to do.”
Samysuddin, Speargun Fisherman, Kapoposang, Indonesia
The ability of Indonesia to withstand climatic changes relates as much to the socio-economic vulnerabilities of its population as to the nature and severity of environmental challenges. As the world’s fourth most populous nation, Indonesia continues to struggle with poverty and inequality despite significant improvements in the human development index. Economic progress is uneven across its provinces and some 30 million people still live below the national poverty threshold. In terms of democratic governance, improvements have been seen since the sectarian violence of past years.
In Indonesia there is a long history of responding to economic, social, or environmental adversity through both temporary or permanent migration. Indonesia provides a significant pool of labour migrants, with about 6 million working abroad, particularly in more rapidly growing Asian economies and in the Middle East. Within the country, rural-urban movement, both temporary and permanent, is significant, with western Java a common destination. However, with Jakarta expected to face multiple impacts of climate change in the years ahead, internal migration may shift to other urban areas less at risk, including other islands in the archipelago nation.