Padar island in Indonesia

NOW WE KNOW: HOW MANY ISLANDS ARE THERE IN INDONESIA?

How many islands are there in Indonesia? It’s a question we’re often asked and, to be honest, it’s one that’s been quite difficult to answer accurately.

The official figure for many years stood at 17,508 – that was according to a 1996 law – but the problem is, that number is an estimate. And so to settle the score in time for last year’s UN Conference of Standardisation of Geographical Names, which is held every five years, a team from Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries was given the job of counting each and every one to see how many islands there are in Indonesia. There’s quite a lot that goes into it (it’s not quite as simple as opening up Google Maps), and you can read more on the process here.

So, how many islands are there in Indonesia? The short answer – and the most recent number – is 16,056. But again, that’s not entirely accurate because every one of Indonesia’s islands couldn’t be counted in time for the UN Conference of Standardisation of Geographical Names. Prior to the conference, which was held in August 2017, the official tally of formally counted and registered islands stood at 13,466. By the time the conference began, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries was able to add 2,590 more to the list, taking the official number to a total of 16056 islands in Indonesia.

But it doesn’t end there. “There are 1,448 islands left that need to be validated and verified,” said Arif Havas Oegroseno, the assistant for maritime sovereignty at the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister, quoted in the Jakarta Post.

If you’re doing the maths, you’ll realise that this takes the total number of islands in Indonesia to 17,504… we can’t say for certain what’s happened to the other four islands. Lost to rising sea levels, perhaps? Or maybe lost somewhere in all the paperwork that must come with counting and documenting 17,500-and-something islands. It’s likely we’ll have to wait until the next conference, scheduled for 2022, to get the complete, official figure.

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