Land of The Sea

Irene Barlian

2020 - Ongoing

Indonesia has one of the longest coastlines in the world, stretching as far as 95.181 km. The majority of them are on the brink of inundation of rising sea levels, one of the consequences of a hotter planet. According to Institut Teknologi Bandung, more than 100 cities or districts are potentially drowned by 2050. More than 60% of the population live in a radius of 50 km from the coastline, making them vulnerable to the constant peril of rising sea levels.

If the temperature remains rising, the northern coast of Java will be the first to go. The tragic alteration of the landscape has already happened in several regions in Central Java like Gresik, Semarang, and Pekalongan. The settlement ravaged. Many of the houses are permanently drown by seawater. Innumerable residents who persisted survive by leveling up their house foundation, generating a ragged structure and unsafe to live. Without including the land subsidence in the coastal area, an estimation of 0.3-0.8 cm sea levels increase every year.

For the last two decades, natural disasters have become more frequent and brutal. It has altered and impacts the way of life of the community residing in the region. Abrasion has engulfed more than 100 hectares of milkfish embankment in Gresik. Unpredictable weather and the constant decrease of natural resources create hardship for the fishermen's livelihoods in Semarang. In Pekalongan, the coastal flood interferes with the drying process and causing a derogation in the fabrics' color absorption for batik artisans.

In addition to an endless fight with seawater, a long list of difficulties like water crisis, pollution, drought, and the decrease of rainfall are also in the reckoning. Indonesia is the biggest archipelago country in the world. But if we continue at this pace, the islands will soon be the sea.

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  • Suyono, 44, and Umi Mustafidah, 33, are posing for a portrait in front of their house at Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia. They have increased the house foundation three times throughout the years. But, it's not enough to hinder the coastal floods. "One night, when I was sleeping, the water barged in. I felt something fidget next to me. I woke up and found a snake," told Suyono. He is a native to the region. The idea of having to move has never crossed his mind.

  • A general view of Semarang, the capital of East Java and one of the most important port hub in the region.

  • A group of farmers is harvesting the milkfish in Gresik, East Java, Indonesia. The rising seawater and abrasion become a major problem to a region known as the biggest milkfish producer in Indonesia. More than 100 hectares of milkfish embankment shift into an open ocean. Often during high tide, they could lose their product so, an early harvest is necessary even if it means smaller fish and decreasing the quality and income.

  • A gas station that has been permanently drowned by seawater in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia. Here, a fishermen's village ravages by rising sea levels. The unpredictable weather and the decreased amount of fish add another problem to the equation.

  • The most noticeable impact of climate change is the dramatic alteration of the landscape. In Gresik, an industrial region located in the northwest of East Java, more than 100 hectares of milkfish embankment are now, sea. Abrasion is one of the major problems in the region known as the biggest milkfish producers in Indonesia.

  • Siti Mardyan Budhiastuti, 54, is posing for a portrait during a coastal flood inside her house in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia. "We have renovated our home five times since 1997. But it's getting worse each year ", said Siti. She wishes to sell the house and move out but having a hard time finding a buyer. "There is nothing that we can do. We cannot get a loan to renovate the house either", she adds desperately. During the monsoon season and sometimes dry season, the family has to deal with the seawater barging into their house every day.

  • The residents hoisting up their electrical appliances and furniture to avoid more damage from the coastal flood.

  • Muhammad Ali Zainudin, 35, and Nastain, 67, are building a wall from mud and bamboo to protect the milkfish embankment. In Gresik, an industrial region located in the northwest of East Java, more than 100 hectares of milkfish embankment has gone due to abrasion. "This wall is the last stronghold that we have," said Ali. They have to keep re-building it every year, sometimes twice.

  • Nurhasanah, 45, walks back after having the family portraits taken in front of their house in Pekalongan, Central Java, Indonesia. She and her husband live with three children in a 3x2 meters space left inside their home. The house is slowly overflowing with seawater.

  • man is fishing near the cemetery in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia. The public cemetery has been submerged by seawater. It only can be accessed during low tide. A couple of families of the deceased have moved the body to a safer place. But, numerous leave the body where it was because they didn't have the funds.