Members of People’s Coalition for Jakarta 2030 conducted a survey during a recent car-free day in the city. (Photo courtesy of Koalisi Warga Untuk Jakarta 2030)
Jakarta’s Urban Warriors on Front Lines of Fight for Reform
In early 2008, Jakarta was experiencing yet another urban crisis: floodwaters had blocked access to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, the busiest airport in the country. The water eventually subsided, and life in the capital returned to normal, at least until the next disaster.
Greater Jakarta, with 22 million residents and covering 660 square kilometers, seems to lurch from disaster to disaster, a situation some observers blame on officials and their lack of foresight when it comes to urban planning.
Irvan Pulungan, from Koalisi Warga Untuk Jakarta 2030 (People’s Coalition for Jakarta 2030), said the flood that blocked the highway leading to Soekarno-Hatta was caused by a poorly thought-out development project.
“Around 19 hectares of mangrove was destroyed because the city administration decided to widen parts of the highway and improve its quality,” he said.
Irvan said this was just one of many examples of the city administration’s lack of a clear-cut strategy where Jakarta’s urban planning is concerned. Instead of drawing up and implementing a comprehensive plan that could prevent recurring problems, he said, the administration simply fixes problems as they pop up.
Nana Firman, another member of the coalition, describes the state of urban planning in Jakarta in one word — “ berantakan ” — Indonesian for messed up.
Irvan and Nana, along with four other people — two architects, an urban sociologist and a housewife who is also a green activist — established the coalition last December.
Irvan, a researcher at the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law, was born in Jakarta and has lived here for 29 years. He has a law degree from the Dipenogoro University in Semarang, Central Java
Nana is an urban planner by profession, doing projects for nonprofit organizations. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and her master’s from the Pratt Institute in New York. She was part of the Green Reconstruction project for post-tsunami recovery in Aceh.
“Jakarta is a city with thousands of problems,” Nana said. “And those problems have to be resolved quickly. If not, we’ll end up living in a really dysfunctional city.”
As one of its first projects, the coalition conducted a survey from January to March involving 2,000 Jakarta residents. The results of the survey were hardly surprising — traffic was cited as having the largest negative impact on people’s lives.
Irvan said Jakarta had to deal with a host of important issues besides flooding, including the impacts of climate change, population density, air and water pollution, and the lack of green space and availability of clean water.
“This city is sick,” he said.
The coalition was established in response to a bylaw on the city’s spatial master plan, RTRW Jakarta 2030, which was announced in December. The draft of the master plan is scheduled for review by the Jakarta City Council in May.
Irvan and the other members of the coalition say the bylaw was drafted without public input. The 2007 Spatial Planning Law required every province to submit a spatial plan proposal to the Public Works Ministry within two years after the passage of the law. Cities and districts were given three years.
As of February, 10 of 33 provinces had their spatial plans approved by the ministry. Jakarta is one of five provinces that has yet to submit a plan.
The 2007 law also stipulates that officials should seek public input on proposed spatial plans. “The [Jakarta] city administration claims it has spread information about the [draft of the] plan since 2005,” Irvan said.
He said this claim was misleading, and that many urban activists were not even aware of the draft until last December. “The city administration only launched a Web site [for the spatial plan] a few weeks after our movement was launched,” Irvan added.
Nana said Jakarta had a good master plan from 1966 to 1977. The main problem, she said, was the city administration’s inability to follow what was actually laid out in the plan.
Both Irvan and Nana said it was important that the public was involved in drawing up the plan. “If you want to know whether the shoe fits, ask the person who is wearing it, not the one making it,” Nana said.
Irvan said other major cities around the world actively involved residents in creating their master plans. “Our city administration should look at how other cities like New York, Sydney and Berlin have done it,” he said.
Aside from increasing public participation, the coalition says other improvements must be made to Jakarta’s spatial master plan.
“There are many current issues that are discussed in the draft, but if you read it closely, you’ll find inconsistencies and parts that are unclear,” Nana said.
Irvan gave an example. One section of the draft says Marunda in North Jakarta is to be transformed into an international seaport and tourism center that will serve as a gateway to Thousand Islands district. “But in another section, the city administration says it will build a trash incinerator in Marunda. How can you have a waste management factory in a tourism area?” he said.
He also faulted the language used in the plan, criticizing it as too technical. Irvan said the draft should use language that everyone could understand. “That’s actually something that’s mandated by the 2007 Spatial Planning Law,” he added.
Irvan said that, for example, Kendari, the capital of Southeast Sulawesi, was faring much better than Jakarta. Kendari has translated its master plan into four different traditional languages. “It’s unacceptable that a city [like Jakarta] with such a big budget can’t do better than this,” he said.
The coalition, with about 30 active members and support from other nonprofit organizations, said it was not lobbying to have Jakarta’s master plan thrown out completely. “All we’re trying to do is to help the city government create a draft that can address future challenges,” Nana said.
“Residents of the city are apathetic about the things around them. We want to change that,” she said, adding that the public had to become directly involved in matters to effect real results.
“We need to ask people what they think,” Irvan added.
In just three months, the coalition has organized 17 public workshops dealing with various issues related to the city’s urban planning. “The city administration should be able to conduct workshops and public hearings too, as it has the money to undertake such an effort,” Irvan said.
Deden Rukmana, an assistant professor of urban studies and planning at Savannah State University in the United States, said cities needed to pay more attention to what people really wanted and needed.
“The planning practice in the 21st century calls for community-based planning,” he said, adding that this was the way to created better public policy.
Deden said he wanted to see Jakarta grow into a city that all its residents could be proud of. “I also hope that Jakarta can give justice to its low-income residents, who are the majority in the city.”
Koalisi Warga has received an enormous response from the public. Nana said that they didn’t expect too much when they decided to establish the coalition. To her surprise, however, people were actually aware that they needed to do something for their city. She says that’s a good sign. “Let’s still have hope for this city. Together we can effect great changes.”
Koalisi Warga members have organized 17 public workshops in Jakarta since December to discuss urban planning in the city. Photos courtesy of Koalisi Warga Untuk Jakarta 2030