People behind the seawall

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If adequate precautions are not taken, one third of Jakarta will be flooded in approximately 25 years’ time. On average the Indonesian capital is sinking by some 7.5 centimetres per year, while sea levels continue to rise and precipitation continues to increase. Over 20 million people are living in a city at risk. In 2015 Dutch photographer Cynthia Boll travelled to Jakarta to depict the situation.

After having spent some time in the city, Boll was surprised by local residents’ lack of awareness of the impending danger. She therefore initiated a project called ‘The People Behind the Seawall’, also known as ‘Utarakan Jakarta - Speak Up (North) Jakarta’ in Bahasa Indonesia. Daily updates on the progress are available on

Boll operates independently: she wants to raise awareness and encourage local residents and government authorities to devote more attention to the problem. She followed four residents of North Jakarta for one year, and recorded their lives and surroundings in text, photographs and film. The images show people coping with flooding, a home that is sinking, and the cost of drinking water in a city that is about to drown. The urgency of protecting Jakarta against flooding becomes abundantly clear.

Boll exhibited in the Erasmus House, the Dutch Cultural Centre in Jakarta, earlier this year. Witteveen+Bos appreciates Boll’s commitment to giving local residents a face and a voice, and to raising awareness of the dangers.  The company therefore supports Boll’s project in order for it to continue for a longer period of time. Also, the exhibition earlier this year was made possible.