Jakarta’s Great Garuda Sea Wall Project

Jakarta has long experienced flooding, but it has become more frequent and more extreme in recent decades with major flood events in 1996, 2002, 2007, and 2013. Flooding poses a threat to the national economy, causes damage to buildings, roads and infrastructure, contributes to the spread of waterborne diseases, displaces residents, and claims lives.

In response to severe flooding in Jakarta, a consortium of Dutch firms in collaboration with the Indonesian government has designed the ‘Great Garuda Sea Wall’ project. The master plan proposes to construct a sea wall to enclose Jakarta Bay. A new waterfront city will be built on over 1000 hectares (ha) of reclaimed land in the shape of the Garuda, Indonesia’s national symbol.

By redeveloping North Jakarta, the project promises to realise the world-class city aspirations of Indonesia’s political elites. Heavily reliant on hydrological engineering, hard infrastructure and private capital, the project has been presented by proponents as the optimum way to protect the city from flooding. The project retains its allure among political elites despite not directly addressing land subsidence, understood to be a primary cause of flooding.

A recent wave of concrete-heavy, capital-intensive water infrastructure projects – such as China’s North-South Transfer project, the largest water transfer project ever constructed,  South Korea’s Saemangeum, the 33-kilometre (km) sea wall, the longest human-made dyke in the world, and London’s £270 million desalination plant – suggests that we may be witnessing a return to big infrastructure within water management.

The research paper makes a case for provincialising narratives that claim we are witnessing a return to big infrastructure in water management.

This summary is based on the research paper Understanding the Allure of Big Infrastructure: Jakarta’s Great Garuda Sea Wall Project. 


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