The Slowly Disappearing

Third place in Photo Contest for Climate Change Stories
Photo & Text:
Garry Lotulung
Thursday, 20 January 2022

In June 2021, dozens of families are still struggling with tidal floods and land that continues to be eroded by the sea in Simonet Hamlet, Pekalongan, Central Java. In this hamlet, the coastline, which was previously quite far away, is now getting closer to residential areas. Some residents of the hamlet have chosen to move because their houses can no longer be inhabited. Others still survive and live with the floods.

A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change reveals that the world’s coastal populations are experiencing the impacts of sea level rise more extreme than expected. This is because they live concentrated in places where land levels have fallen or sunk very quickly.

Sea levels are rising in line with the melting of the Earth’s ice sheets. In Indonesia, the impact of sea level rise is exacerbated by land subsidence. Heri Andreas, a geodesy researcher from the Bandung Institute of Technology, said that in the next 10 years the coastal areas of Pekalongan, including Simonet Hamlet, will be the first in Indonesia and the world to sink rapidly. This prediction is based on the rate of land subsidence.

“Currently, 35% of Pekalongan City is affected by flooding. By 2030-2040, 85% of the city will be under the sea,” said Heri Andreas.

The latest monitoring results conducted by the LAPAN Remote Sensing Team in 2020 show that there are three cities at risk of sinking, namely Pekalongan, Semarang and Jakarta. This is because these three cities are experiencing the fastest sea level rise and land subsidence.

At the end of 2021, Radar Semarang published an article about Simonet Hamlet. “The area of this hamlet was originally about 21 hectares. Now about 30 percent of it remains. The population was originally 265 people or 70 families. In January 2021, 60 families remained. The number is shrinking as people gradually leave the hamlet and abandon their houses. This month, there are only 28 families or about 96 people who still survive.”

Third place in Photo Contest for Climate Change Stories
Photo and Text by Garry Lotulung
Text Editor: My Climate Team

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