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Photo exhibition rings alarm bells over Jakarta flooding

Ni Nyoman Wira
Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, November 28, 2016  /  11:10 am
Photo exhibition rings alarm bells over Jakarta flooding

Boll has followed four residents of North Jakarta for two years to capture their daily struggle with the floods. (Utarakan Jakarta/Cynthia Boll)

A photography exhibition in Jakarta is alerting the public to the growing risk of flooding because of land subsidence due to excessive ground water extraction and amid the fragile state of the 40-year-old seawall built to protect the capital city against rising sea levels.

The exhibition at the Van Vleuten & Cox Building in West Jakarta runs until Dec. 5.

“Every place below sea level will be flooded,” said Dutch photographer Cynthia Boll, the initiator of the exhibition "The People behind the Seawall". Such extensive flooding, according to Boll's research, will occur in the next 20-30 years.

For two years, Boll has followed four residents of North Jakarta to capture their struggles of living with the floods, namely 12-year-old student Alda from Pasar Ikan, fisherman Lukman from the Pojok kampung near the seawall, jamu (herbal medicine) seller Sarmini from Muara Baru near Pluit, and Sumari, a bicycle tour guide from West Jakarta’s Kota Tua.

(Read also: City policy causing floods)

Cynthia Boll explains the exhibition to the press.(JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

“I chose the four people because they represent different things. [I chose] Alda because she’s the future and Sumari because he’s connected to the heritage,” Boll explained, adding that the flood would also affect Kota Tua, Jakarta’s old town. Boll said she had selected Lukman because he depended on the water for a living and had to elevate his house’s floor every year due to the flood. Sarmini was chosen because the floods caused her economical loss.

Aside from Boll’s photos, visitors can marvel at replicas of Alda’s school uniform, Lukman’s small boat, Sarmini’s water cart and Sumari’s bicycle. All of them are displayed drowned in water and garbage. Boll also presents information she has gathered from experts about the flood risks.

(Read also: Utarakan Jakarta attempts to raise awareness on flooding)

Aside from Boll’s photos, visitors can marvel at replicas of Alda’s school uniform, Lukman’s small boat, Sarmini’s water cart and Sumari’s bicycle.(JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

Boll’s interest in Jakarta began when she heard the news about the city being threatened by the water. “So I went to Jakarta, I talked to people in North Jakarta, where I saw the seawall and thought ‘This is scary’,” she said. “But what is scarier is that most young people are not aware [of it].” Boll feels a connection between Jakarta’s situation and her house in the Netherlands, which is built on a dyke. But, she adds, she feels safe in her house.

“Jakarta is not the only sinking city, but also Mexico City, Dhaka, New Orleans, Venice – they’re all sinking cities. But Jakarta is the worst, I have to admit,” she said. “I had to start with Jakarta because it has the most urgent situation.”

The exhibition is part of the Utarakan Jakarta (Say It Jakarta) campaign. The campaign, also initiated by Boll, started in October last year on different media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, websites, magazines and exhibitions. Meanwhile, the first exhibition of "The People behind the Seawall" was conducted in April.

All of the photographs from the exhibition will be donated to the Kota Tua Consortium, which will continue the campaign to alert the public, especially visitors of Kota Tua. Boll plans to expand the project to other cities. (kes)

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