JAKARTA, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Indonesia on Thursday officially launched a $263 million project to build a giant sea wall along the coast of its capital, Jakarta, in an attempt to protect businesses and homes from flooding.
Last year's rainy season brought Jakarta to a standstill, causing a river in the city to breach its banks and swamp the central business district, leaving thousands stranded and causing $580 million in damage.
With 40 percent of Jakarta already below sea level, the situation is only expected to worsen for the city of 10 million people as the ground slowly subsides due to excessive pumping of groundwater.
Fixing the flood problem was a promise of President-elect Joko Widodo during his term as the city's governor.
"This project is a must," chief economics minister Chairul Tanjung told reporters after a ground-breaking ceremony.
"If we don't do anything, in 2050 Jakarta will sink due to rapid ground subsidence and rising sea level."
The project, which was designed in consultation with infrastructure and environment officials from the Netherlands, should be able to resist high tides and rising sea level at least until 2030.
The first phase of the project government will include an 8 km (5 mile) wall along the coast, which forms the city's northern edge. (1 US dollar = 12,180 rupiah)
(Reporting by Adriana Nina Kusuma and Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Robert Birsel)