Whilst in Jakarta Maicie Annabel and I met with two wonderful artists from Jakarta, Tita Salina and her partner Irwan Ahmett . Tita Salina’s work, 1001st island – the most sustainable island in archipelago 2015 explores issues of community disenfranchisement, environmental pollution and government corruption as they manifest within the Indonesian government’s grand plan for the restoration and redevelopment of Jakarta Bay.
Jakarta Bay is e impacted by extreme pollution, the reduction of important fishing stocks, and rapid land sinkage due to groundwater extraction that provides drinking water for Jakarta’s 10 million inhabitants. Combined with the threat of rising sea levels, these problems jeopardise communities of small-scale fishermen and coastal traders who live on and around the bay. The government’s solution to the complex environmental and social issues is to build a giant sea wall across the bay to transform it into a man-made lagoon protected from flooding, populate it with new artificial islands, and redevelop the foreshore areas, moving existing coastal communities outside the city precincts. Many are sceptical about the efficacy of the plan and criticise it as scientifically dubious, socially discriminatory and financially irresponsible.
To create 1001st island, Salina collaborated with local fishermen from one of the threatened communities to collect some of the plastic rubbish that plagues the bay. Wrapped in a fishing net to construct an artificial island, it was then dragged behind a fishing boat into the bay and released to become the 1001st island in the chain of islands north of Jakarta known as the Thousand Islands.
The most urgent problems are in North Jakarta, a coastal mash-up of ports, nautically themed high-rises, aged fish markets, abject slums, power plants, giant air-conditioned malls and the congested remnants of the colonial Dutch settlement, with its decrepit squares and streets of crumbling warehouses and dusty museums.
Some of the world’s most polluted canals and rivers weave a spider’s web through the area.
It is where the city is sinking fastest.
That’s because, after decades of reckless growth and negligent leadership Jakarta’s problems have acumulated.
Tita told me that many believe that Atlantis is near Jakarta, so perhaps the city is preparing to meet her sister.