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Why Jakarta is sinking

The 400-year curse dragging Indonesia’s capital into the sea.

Christina Thornell is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

Like many coastal cities around the world, Jakarta is dealing with sea-level rise. But Indonesia’s biggest city also has a unique problem: Because of restricted water access in the city, the majority of its residents have to extract groundwater to survive. And it’s causing the city to sink. Today, Jakarta is the world’s fastest-sinking city.

The problem gets worse every year, but the root of it precedes modern Indonesia by centuries. In the 1600s, when the Dutch landed in Indonesia and built present-day Jakarta, they divided up the city to segregate the population. Eventually, that segregation led to an unequal water piping system that excluded most Indigenous Jakartans, forcing them to find other ways to get water.

To understand how all of this ties together, and what’s in store for Jakarta’s future, watch the video above. You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on our YouTube channel.