What is common between Athens and Jakarta?

What is common between Athens and Jakarta?

Athens and Jakarta are two completely different cities, both from a cultural and a geographical point of view. However, if you look closer you can see the same picture: that of a gray urban "sea" with no green islands. Last January we saw that the European Athens and the Indonesian Jakarta seem to make the very same mistakes: growing in an anarchic and disorderly manner without taking into account nature's payback.


We could say that Jakarta is like an Asian "Amsterdam": a large part of the city is built below the level of the sea. Therefore, the Indonesian capital is inherently vulnerable to the element of water as we witnessed last January when Jakarta experienced one of Indonesia’s worst floods.


Jakartans instead of focusing their efforts on addressing this problem, they are aggravating it. The dramatic population growth intensifies the construction of more housing units and the expansion of the city to such an extent that the surface of the soil gets increasingly covered with hard building material and inevitably the natural ability of the soil to retain precipitation water gets reduced. This issue plus an inadequate drainage system give Jakartans extra trouble with floods. Moreover, since much water is spoiled there arises a serious water-related problem during periods of drought.


A little later the same month (January), Athens was hit hard by floods after widespread storms that swept away cars, flooded basements, and caused damage to the transportation network of the city. The causes of the floods in Athens are not so different from those of the floods in Jakarta.

Athens, like Jakarta, is a city that grows without planning adequate management systems which can prevent flooding.

Athens, like Jakarta, is a city that grows without planning adequate management systems which can prevent flooding. The lack of grass is visible and it can cause not only flood problems but also unbearably high temperatures during the summer. Global climate projections show that such extreme phenomena such as heavy storms and chronic droughts will occur more frequently and more intensely in the near future. Over the last few years we have heard on the news about natural phenomena that used to occur only once every 50 or 100 years or about phenomena that appeared now for the first time in recorded history. Devastating hurricanes, tsunamis, floods and droughts, and unprecedented heat waves kill thousands of people every year even in developed countries.


The truth is that the expansion of cities should be planned with respect not only to land-use trends, urbanization trends, and local geomorphology, but also with respect to observed changes in climate. The design of the urban landscape will have to become orderly in order to increase resilience to severe weather phenomena. There is an imperative need for urban planners to take into account the flood risk and to develop new defense systems that will include the prevention of building on the banks of dried rivers, the creation of green parks, and the shaping of urban spaces where water can emanate when it exceeds the capacity of the sewerage system. It is wrong to handle such issues at a district level and not at the city level because the emanation system in one district can cause worse flooding in a neighboring district.


Ιt is fairly understood that the acute economic and social problems in countries like Greece and Indonesia change priorities: flood defense systems are in low priority. However, these countries should not forget that creating a safe urban space may lead to the improvement of socio-economic conditions as well.



Leave a comment