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Indonesia loses two UNESCO islands to rising sea levels

News & Blog

Two small islands in South Sumatra have disappeared as a result of rising sea levels driven by climate change, while four other islands are already on the brink of vanishing, according to the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).

The province’s Betet Island and Gundul Island ─ which technically fell under the administration of Banyuasin regency ─ have submerged, currently sitting 1 meter and 3 meters below sea level, respectively, according to Walhi data.

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

Should there be no significant efforts to address the ever-rising oceans, four other islands in the area with elevations of less than 4 meters above sea level could follow suit and disappear sooner or later, Hairul said.

The four are Burung Island, the elevation of which is currently at sea level; Kalong Island and Salah Namo Island, both of 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 eastern coast of South Sumatra’s Banyuasin. Some of the islands are uninhabited, while some ─ including Salah Namo Island ─ have people living on them.

Climate change-driven rising sea levels, which come with further warming of the earth, particularly threaten archipelagic countries like Indonesia, where millions of people currently live in low-lying coastal areas spread across some 17,000 islands.

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