Two Indonesian islands fade, more can sink, SE Asia News & Top Stories

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST / ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Two small islands in southern Sumatra have disappeared as a result of sea level rise driven by climate change, while four other islands are about to disappear, the Forum of Indonesia for the Environment (Walhi) has claimed.

Betet Island and Gundul Island in the province, which technically fell under the administration of the Banyuasin Regency, have submerged and are currently 1 and 3 meters below sea level, respectively, according to Walhi data.

“These islands were uninhabited. One of the islands, Betet, is part of the Berbak-Sembilang National Park,” Walhi South Sumatra chief executive Hairul Sobri said on January 14.

In the event that no significant efforts are made to address the constantly increasing oceans, four other islands in the area with elevations of less than 4 m above sea level could do the same sooner or later, Hairul said.

The four are Burung Island, which is currently at sea level; Kalong Island and Salah Namo Island, which are currently 2 meters above sea level; and Kramat Island, which is 3 meters above sea level.

According to Walhi, there are currently 23 small islands located off the east coast of Banyuasin, in southern Sumatra. Some of the islands are uninhabited, while some, including Salah Namo Island, have people living in them.

The rising sea level caused by climate change, which comes with greater warming of the land, especially threatens archipelagic countries such as Indonesia, where millions of people currently live in low-lying coastal areas spread over some 17,000 islands.

Syahrul, head of the neighborhood unit on Salah Namo Island, said they already knew that rising seas could submerge their island.

People who lived on the island have moved their homes tens of meters from their original place where their homes were first built, he said.

Syahrul said that most residents moved to the island in 1970 to have a better life by planting rice and becoming fishermen. In 1990, there were large fields in front of the houses, where they could exercise and the children could play together, but things are different now.

“There is no field in front of our houses. Many of the people have also moved from here,” he said.

The head of Area II of the Berbak-Sembilang National Park, Mr. Affan Absori, confirmed separately that Betet Island had submerged and that the island had undergone the sinking for some time.

The Berbak-Sembilang National Park, which was declared a world biosphere reserve in 2018 by Unesco, houses mangrove areas and is rich in flora and fauna, including the Sumatran tiger and kingfisher birds.

“It has sunk because the sea level has increased and because of the tsunami. But there is no significant disruption to animals,” Mr. Affan said yesterday.

According to Walhi, a tropical country like Indonesia is more vulnerable to the effects of global warming, especially in southern Sumatra, where people depend on coal, oil and natural gas, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. .

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