I am Pak Lukman and I live with my family in an elevated house on the outer side of the sea wall in Kampung Pojok. My income is the fish I catch in the sea. The fish are with less and less every year, and the surface of the sea rises because Jakarta is sinking. The sea is both my friend and enemy. I have to elevate my home every year. Can I win this battle?
The future of my son
It was raining very heavily yesterday. There was a lot of water in my boat and it sank. With my son in law I will dive and get the nets and gear out. I can still use them. My grandfather was a fisherman. He taught me how to make nets and how to catch fish. I really love the sea.
But do I want my son to be a fisherman? No, the future is unstable and the work is hard and risky.
I hope he will be a good learner and find a job. If I could start over, I would join the army.
Pollution can ruin your sambal…and my finance
Twice a day I check my nets in the bay. It’ s a half hour ride to my 2 nets. On average there are 1 or 2 fish in the nets.
Sometimes the nets are torn because of the plastic in it.
My daughter Serli likes to come because she likes the beautiful skies and the peace and quiet on the water.
Who loves sambal terasi with their meals? There’s nothing like sambal terasi and a plate of hot rice, right? Well, one of the things that makes that sambal taste so good is the rebon shrimp.
For a fisherman like me, the shrimp doesn’t just taste good, it sells good too. Each rebon harvest season can bring me up to a million rupiah a day. We used to be able to get four months of harvest in a year. And now we only have half a month. Half a month! Can you imagine? And that means less sambal terasi for you too!
Playing with our pigeon
My son is playing with the pigeon. He strokes it. No, we do not eat pigeon. Our favourite food is fish ha ha.
We have a pigeon house on our roof. In a few years’ time, that roof will be our living room.
And our current living room will be under water. Every year I have to raise our house a little.
I have to lift every piece of the floor. Because we do not want to get our feet wet.
What a Food Wrapper Can Teach Me About Big Projects
One day I was reading a piece of newspaper used for food wrapping. I got curious and read on.
It was about a plan to build a huge sea wall. With islands. I think it’s called Jakarta Sea Wall or something.
It is going to have the shape of Garuda. To protect us from the sea. A lot of people here don’t know about it. Even though it is going to be built a couple of 100 meters from their place. It had a picture of the project plan on it.
But tell me, what is going to happen to this community if they are really going to build that wall and those islands?
Do you know?
Jakarta is sinking
The threat of water is always there.
Jakarta is sinking at an alarming rate of in some places 25 cm a year.
The sea wall is getting lower, the water higher.
If one day it comes over the wall or the wall breaks, a lot of people can drown.
A river can overflow when it is raining. But it will pull back after a while.
The sea is never empty, we will all be under water.
But my family and I will be safe, because we live above the water. So our house will never flood.
The quality of the seawater
Every morning the fishermen in the community come together and have a look at the quality of the seawater. Depending on weather and situation we decide where and how to fish. Sometimes we sail out of the bay to fish with a rod. Or we stay close by and decide to use the nets and small rods. The quality of the water can be so bad that we have to sail too far. Or the sea is so rough that we rather stay at home.
I use digital navigation to find the best fishing grounds. Shallow places near wrecks will have a lot of fish.
I share my knowledge of good fishing grounds with others in the community. Near the 1000 islands there is always a lot of fish, but that is quite far and I will be gone for a day and a night. It can be dangerous because of the high waves. And my boat is not that big.
New life during floods
This is the daughter of my niece who lives in the neighbourhood next to the pumping station Pompa Pluit.
My niece told me that if the baby would have come 2 days earlier, she would have gone to the hospital by boat because of the floods. Because there was an electricity failure and the pumping station did not function anymore, Waduk Pluit flooded her house and the whole area.
My niece was lucky- not her neighbour who was evacuated by boat to the hospital- she got her daughter one day after the water was gone. Isn’t she lovely?
The little fish
We live right on top of the water and between the fish. I do not know how my son got this fish. Maybe one of the little boys next door gave it to him when he was fishing with a landing net when I came back this morning. The fish is too small to eat. But he can play with it.
How many of you have ever eaten a fish called Ikan Lemah? Now that’s a good fish. It looks good, tastes good, and sells good too. When the water was still clear back then, we could still see lots of these white fishes swimming about. They look like cotton balls, a bit like the white pomfret fish. But not today.
The sea is already murky from the waste dumped in it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if none of you have ever seen or eaten Ikan Lemah.
Winning the lottery
My wife Riska fishes for garbage, she weighs it, sells it, and gets a liter of rice for it. Close to our house. It’s almost like fishing for real fishes.
She can gather 300 kilos of garbage in only a week when she would accompany me out to the sea! Think of that. The other day she was collecting plastic. She found a plastic bag with green paper notes in it, all the same size. We had never seen it before. One of the neighbors could tell us that they were American dollar bills. Yeah, it felt like winning the lottery. That is what I call a good catch. All my fishing cannot win from that.
Fair price of fish
We have a big freezer to store the fish that I catch. Only when I have more than 5 kilo’s the trader will come to sell it for me on the fish market. With all the fishermen in the community we agree on a price for our fish. Yes, one type of fish is more expensive than the other.
Some fish sellers will cheat on us; with the weighing scales or with the price. The trader I deal with is an honest man. So I only do business with him.
We do not sell all the fish because we like to eat fish a lot ourselves.
Who’s going to win this race?
If you have a house that is often flooded, you’re bound to do renovations, right? My house in Kampung Pojok never gets flooded, because it stands above the sea! But, funnily enough, I still have to make my house higher every year. You see, my first floor is now underwater. So my second floor is now my first floor. I heard some scientists say that this is because the sea water level is rising. Well, it has to be rising really quickly if it’s already drowning my house’s first floor, then! Does this mean I have to race with the water every year? Do you think I will ever win this race? Hi, I am Riska, I am from Indramayu, and I have lived in North Jakarta since I was 5. I moved to Kampung Pojok, to this house above the water after I married Pak Lukman. I like my house now. It doesn’t get flooded, and I can see the sea every day.
This wall behind my house, I think is getting shorter. I remember it being really tall. So is the sea rising or the ground becoming lower?
You take and take, what do you give back?
I, Lukman, a fisherman from North Jakarta’s Kampung Pojok, have been up since before dawn.
I’ve seen a really beautiful sunrise. I’ve checked my net and gone to the sea. That Koes Plus song I sang before is really fitting for a fisherman like me. Honestly, though, a fisherman’s life these days in the sea is not as nice as the song. All seafood is good, as long as it’s fresh. A fresh fish or squid would taste sweet with or without seasoning. Trust me, if you buy from me, it’s fresh. But I think if we still want the best from the sea, we have to be nice to the sea too. Don’t just take what you want and give waste in return.