Translate page with Google

Story Publication logo November 22, 2022

The Sinking Heaven in Northern Jakarta (bahasa Indonesia)


People stand in a flooded cemetery on the edge of a large body of water as the sun sets.

In the face of devastating consequences of climate change, people and businesses in Indonesia must...


A child stands on a concrete breakwater on Bintang Beach, Pari Island, Kepulauan Seribu, which has suffered from severe coastal erosion in recent years. A clump of newly planted mangroves is hope for the community to survive. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

This report was originally written in bahasa Indonesia on the website Project Multatuli. To read the original report, click here.

An English summary of the report is below.

Pari Island is a heaven. With pristine, white sandy beaches, calm waters, and mangrove formations, this 42-hectare island attracts hundreds of vacationers each month. Located just an hour away by speedboat from the capital, Jakarta, in the island formation called the Thousand Islands, Pari Island has been facing grave consequences from pollution and the tourism industry boom since the 1990s. 

The first settlers were thought to come to Pari Island in the 19th century during the Dutch colonial era. For decades, residents relied on fisheries and seaweed production. But as the Indonesian government attempted to boost tourism, by building resorts and other tourism attractions, fish stock quickly depleted and seaweed became extinct. 

For decades, the residents of Pari relied on fisheries and seaweed farming. Production of seaweed, which was dried and processed into gelatin or agar, reached its peak in the 1990s and was exported throughout Asia. 

As a nonprofit journalism organization, we depend on your support to fund more than 170 reporting projects every year on critical global and local issues. Donate any amount today to become a Pulitzer Center Champion and receive exclusive benefits!

But in the early 2000s seaweed production was declining as the tourism boom spread throughout the Thousand Islands. Warming sea temperature, pollution, and land reclamation were blamed as main factors that decimated the seaweed field. 

Residents and activists have alleged that a nearby luxury resort called H Island, just a few miles west of Pari Island, has caused the extinction of seaweed and decreasing fish stock, according to Asmania, a 39-year-old resident of Pari Island.

“During its heyday, all the streets here were lined with dried seaweed,” says Asmania. “The seaweed, thought to be the best quality, was exported throughout Asia," she added. 

An aerial view of the reclamation process to build a private resort in the middle of a mangrove formation. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

Pollution from the 13 rivers that run across Jakarta and end up in Jakarta Bay may also contribute to the environmental degradation in Pari Island, according to Edi Mulyono, an environmental activist and a resident in Pari Island. 

“Plastic waste and other pollution from the rivers ended up around the island,” he said. “Fish no longer live here.”

Over the last two decades, residents of Pari Island have been involved in a land conflict with a private company, PT Bumi Pari Asri, which claimed ownership of the island. The company plans to build luxury resorts on the island, prompting widespread protests. 

“If they build resorts here, we will lose our livelihood, we have nowhere else to go,” says Mustaghfirin, a 50-year-old activist. “They will destroy this island.”

A shipwreck as a silent witness to Pari Island's maritime glory sits on the shoreline, while a boat that now carries more sightseeing tourists passes in the background. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

Not only facing privatization and pollution, as the global carbon emissions warm the planet and cause sea level to rise exponentially, residents now experience more frequent tidal floods that inundate their homes. 

Mulyono observed that since 2019, tidal floods have become higher, reaching about 70 cm in some areas, and increasingly difficult to predict. But no one at that time thought that their island was slowly sinking, engulfed by the Java Sea due to climate change. Mulyono also said that changing weather patterns due to human-induced climate change has made it hard to catch fish, forcing fishermen to sail more than 15 miles off Pari Island to get a good catch. 

“Our ancestors know the seasons and the best time to catch fish just judging by the direction of the wind,” Mulyono says. “But now it becomes unpredictable. It’s not uncommon for us to come home empty handed. We have to go further from the island, which means that we have to stock up on logistics and fuel.”

Ali Hasan stands at the edge of a reclaimed sand pile. As a result of sand dredging, the sea depth around the mangrove formation has now reached five meters, from one or two meters previously. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

Over the past two years, Asmania and many other residents set up a local mangrove initiative with the mission of planting mangroves around the island in the hopes of preventing seawater intrusion. So far they have planted thousands of mangrove on three beaches and plan to plant more.

“We collect the seeds from the existing mangroves,” says Asmania. “When we have enough, we plant them ourselves. We also offer tourists to donate some money in exchange for planting mangroves together. I think this is a good way to raise awareness among tourists that we have to protect this island.”

Mustaghfirin, alias Boby, 50, was imprisoned in Cipinang Detention Center, East Jakarta, because he was accused of illegal levies in Pasir Perawan. Residents and activists agree that Boby is a victim of criminalization by the authorities to smooth privatization. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

A mural on a public toilet at Pasir Perawan Beach. In recent years, Pari Islanders have been aggressively fighting privatization. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

An aerial view of Pasir Perawan Beach. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

A local resident cleans up trash at Pasir Perawan Beach. The Rp5,000 retribution collected from visitors is used for the beach cleaning and maintenance fund. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

Asmania, commonly called Teh Aas, 39, and the women of Pari Island utilize the empty land as a community food barn. For them, the use of land for plantations is a symbol of resistance to privatization. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

Arif Pujiyanto, 50, has lived on Pari Island for the past 45 years. For him, the tidal season used to be a blessing for fishermen. Now the sea water seems to turn against humans. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

Trunks of dead ketapang trees submerged in seawater. The distance of the beach in the past was about 200 meters from the current position, according to residents. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

A desalinated water tank. Since tidal flooding has become more routine, residents have relied on desalinated water purchased for Rp500 per gallon. The water is supplied by the Water Resources Agency and processed from brackish water wells. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

Edi Mulyono, 37, feels how the increasingly high and regular tidal floods affect people's lives. Together with three other residents and a network of community organizations, he sued LafargeHolcim. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

A clump of mangroves planted on Tanjung Rengge Beach. Pari Island residents have now mastered the technique of planting with a spaced clump system to make mangroves more resistant to waves. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.

Dead seagrass beds around Pasir Perawan Beach. Warming sea water temperature, waste, and sand dredging for reclamation are factors that cause seagrass extinction. Image by Adi Renaldi/Project M. Indonesia, 2022.


yellow halftone illustration of an elephant


Environment and Climate Change

Environment and Climate Change


logo for the Our Work/Environment grant


Our Work/Environment

Our Work/Environment

Support our work

Your support ensures great journalism and education on underreported and systemic global issues