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Displacement in Indonesia

By Henry Beglinger

Climate change is and will continue to affect nearly every nation and human on earth, whether that be now or in a few decades it will come. Indonesia knows this all too well, as it has quickly become one of the most at risk nations to severe climate change in the world. Made up of around 17,000 islands and with the 4th largest population in the world, ecological events such as tsunami’s, earthquakes, and floods can and have devastated Indonesians.

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), “Disasters triggered 749,000 internal displacements in 2021. Floods accounted for 82 per cent of the total, of which two-thirds took place toward the end of the rainy season”.

Millions of people are displaced not because of violence or a treatable disease, but because of this impossibly strong enemy.

Due to the fact that most Indonesians live in heavily concentrated urban areas on sparsely protected islands, these floods become much more dangerous than other areas. Surrounded on all sides by water and with relatively low altitude, the five main islands of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua are easily hammered by various environmental disasters.

Due to these disasters, the Indonesian populace is constantly being displaced, and as the UN’s Special Advisor for Climate Action said at the 2022 Climate Conference, “In many regions, attempts at adaptation have been overwhelmed by the pace of climate change”. This inability to adapt will only ramp up the number of internally displaced peoples throughout Indonesia and abroad.

With a rainy season that starts in October and runs through March, Indonesians must not only weather the rain, but the events that this rainfall triggers; landslides and flooding. It is a constant battle of trying to prepare for the worst of the rainy season while also attempting to rebuild what was destroyed in the previous years.

Further, because the of the geographical nature of Indonesia, there are limited designated safe havens in the country to completely avoid this rainfall, pushing people either out of the country altogether or simply forcing relocation until the rains have passed.

This continued cycle will eventually become unsustainable, a report by the Associated Press explains, “As the world’s most rapidly sinking major city, Jakarta demonstrates how climate change is making more places uninhabitable… the Indonesian government is planning to move its capital some 1,240 miles (2,000 kilometers) northeast to the island of Borneo”.

This perfectly illustrates the sheer power that climate change has and what makes it so difficult to not only confront it, but stop it altogether. The Indonesian government is relocating their capital and their millions of government workers, because they simply cannot handle the effects climate change has caused.

This further shows how those everyday people throughout Indonesia handle these climate events. Millions of people are displaced not because of violence or a treatable disease, but because of this impossibly strong enemy.

The great powers of the world can send all the money they can and it will not end climate related disaster in Indonesia. What they can do however, is agree that climate change is real, and that it is worsening. And because of this, certain steps and resolutions must be adopted to protect those that live in the most vulnerable nations, “One in three migrants in the world today comes from Asia, which leads the world in the number of people being displaced by extreme weather, largely storms and flooding”.


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