AS JAKARTA gears up for the annual rainy season, officials are rushing to break ground on what would be one of the world's largest flood mitigation projects: A giant sea wall of some 40km across the north of Jakarta Bay to keep rising sea levels in check.
Plans for the development include reclaiming land for parks along the coast, waterfront housing and commercial centres, as well as a reservoir to hold one billion cubic metres of fresh water.
Eventually, a toll road and mass rapid transit lines will run along the northern part of the wall, which would stretch from Soekarno-Hatta airport in the west till past Tanjung Priok port in the east of the city, and allow access to the harbour.
The project - to start in 2015 - will take at least two decades to complete, is part of an overall citywide strategy on flood prevention and will cost an estimated 300 billion rupiah (S$33 million), borne partly by the private sector.
"This is needed to save the capital, and has to be in place quickly," Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo (in photo above) said last Thursday.
The sea wall was first mooted several years ago by then Governor Fauzi Bowo, who commissioned a study and fleshed out some details ahead of his re-election bid last year.
Mr Widodo, who defeated him, has backed the project as critical, citing how rising tides are predicted to reach the centre of the capital within decades if nothing is done now.
A Dutch consortium is working on a masterplan for the city, commissioned by the central government, that includes the sea wall - and has proposed that the wall look like the national symbol, the Garuda eagle, from the air.