Traffic and Change of School Start Time

A policy proposed by the Jakarta city administration to advance the start of school hours from 7:00 a.m. to 06:30 a.m. sparked controversy from the public. The policy that was aimed at overcoming the traffic congestion in the capital will be at the expense of students. The City Council rejected the idea and argued it will not address the problem of traffic congestion. Meanwhile, the city administration predicted the policy will reduce congestion by between 6 and 14 percent (The Jakarta Post 27 November 2008).

Setiabudi Macet 1, originally uploaded by susiloadhy.

Opponents of this policy argued this policy was only another strong evidence of the inability of the government of Jakarta to overcome traffic congestion. Students will be required to wake up early in the morning and they will be sleepy in class. The proposed policy will cause the tardiness of many students and many classrooms will be empty in the morning.

Given the limitation of the Jakarta city administration in overcoming traffic congestion, the policy to change school start time should be considered as a creative and innovative policy. The reaction to this controversial policy from the public should be anticipated by the city administration. The city administration Jakarta government must implement this policy consistently while still working to reduce traffic congestion through other policies.

The traffic congestion in the capital, especially in the morning, will be slightly
reduced through this policy. The intensity of traffic jams in the capital in the peak hours will decrease because of the thirty minutes early trips of the studetns. The argument of the policy will reduce traffic congestion by 14 percent is reasonable. Data Pokok Kependidikan (Primary Data of Education) from the Jakarta's Office of Secondary Education shows that 1.75 million or 21 percent of the 8.3 million inhabitants living in Jakarta in 2006 are school aged people of 7-18 years old.

The traffic congestion in the capital can't be separated from the high rate of vehicle ownership by 9-11 percent per year that is not supported by the growth of road developent which is only less than 1 percent per year. The development of mass transportation system in the capital is still far from the expectation. The busway can reduce the intensity of traffic congestion in the main roads in the city center, but it has still yet to much untangle traffic congestions in other parts of the capital. In addition, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), which has long been planned, is stil unclear when to be realized.

Why you should use the Jakarta busway, originally uploaded by fishkid.

The high rate of vehicle ownership and the high urbanization in the greater Jakarta area is also the results of the role of Jakarta as the capital of Jakarta and the country's economy and business center. Resolving the transportation problems in Jakarta must also consider developments occurring in the Jakarta's neighboring areas.

Given the various limitations in overcoming traffic congestion through the development of mass transportation system and the high rate of vehicle ownership motor vehicles that is difficult to be controlled, the plan to change school start time is an innovative and creative solution. It is better to implement this policy rather than waiting for the completion of the mass transportation system or the more road built in Jakarta.

In the early implementation of this policy, the city administration needs to tolerate the tardy arrivals of students to schools since the students and parents need some time for the adjustment to the early school hours. Similarly, the availability of public transportation in the early morning needs to be secured to provide services for the students.

In the next stage, the city administration needs to develop school buses that provide shuttle services for students. The provision of school buses will significantly reduce congestion because it will be reduce the number of private vehicles that were previously used to transport the students.

Other alternative that can be considered to reduce congestion school is to implement school attendance zone (rayonisasi). This policy will limit students in their choice of schools. The priority will be given to students who reside near the school. The implementation of this system will shorten the trip distance from the student residence to school, and will ultimately reduce traffic congestion.

In addition, the coordination of the school provision among the municipalities in the Greater Jakarta area needs to be strengthened. The availability of good schools in the Jakarta suburbs is very essential and it will prevent the residents in the suburbs of Jakarta from sending their children to better schools in the central city of Jakarta. The availability of good schools in the buffer areas of Jakarta will ultimately reduce the transportation problem in the capital.

(This article also appeared at The Jakarta Post on December 20, 2008)

Assessment of Trans-Java Toll Road

The development of Trans-Java toll road from Cikampek, West Java to Surabaya, East Java is regarded as the key for economic development, particularly the industrial sector, in the Java island. The planners and decision makers argue the current condition of transportation infrastructure, especially roads, can't support the development of the industrial sector for competing globally. The condition of the current roads is considered as the barrier for increasing the competitiveness of the Island of Java's industrial sector. Is the development of toll road Trans-Java the best solution for the economic development in the island of Java?

Tol Layang Pelabuhan, originally uploaded by rilham2new.

This post briefly attempts to assess the toll road of Trans-Java in the context of sustainable development for the island of Java. The daily newspaper of Kompas on 17 November 2008 reported that the toll road Trans-Java will convert 655,400 hectares of agricultural land. This agricultural land conversion will certainly threaten the national food security, given the role of Java island that supplies 53 percent of the national food needs. The conversion of agricultural land to urban areas will continue along the toll road, especially at the exit of toll road. The land use conversion will be also likely to change the employment structure in the Java island. We will see more labors in agricultural sector in the island of Java switch to urban sector. Sooner or later the agricultural sector in the island of Java will to become a marginalized sectors and it will be a serious threat to the national food security.

In the United States, the development of Interstate Highways started in 1956 and this is not the key factor of urban development in the United States. Before the development of Interstate Highway, the railroad system has played an important role in the urban development since the mid-18th century. The railroad system in the United States connects most areas of the United States, from cities on the East Coast to cities in the West Coast. Larger cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta are examples of cities that grow rapidly due to the infrastructure of the railroad. The development of road transportation becomes an alternative for distributing raw materials and industrial products but does not replace the role of the railroad.

The discussion about global warming and energy crisis put the interstate highways as the cause of the high use of fuel and emission of carbon dioxide. The development of interstate highways also causes suburbanization and urban sprawl. The urban sprawl causes public transport services inefficient and increases residents' dependence on the use of private vehicles.

Indonesia should learn from the negative externalities of the development of interstate highways in the United States. Not only will the development of Trans-Java toll road threaten the national food security due to agricultural land and labor conversion to urban sector, but also increase the fuel consumption as a result of the increased road length. The negative impacts of the development of Trans-Java toll road will be greater if we calculate the environmental impact of the diminishing green areas, including forests and plantations in the island of Java. The development of toll road will also cause the urban sprawl along the toll road.

En route vers Bandung (3), originally uploaded by Popples91.

Another alternative for stimulating the economic growth in Java is developing railroad system. The development of double-tract railway in Java can become an alternative solution for distributing raw materials and products from the industrial sector in the island of Java. Alternatively, we could also reactivate the unused railroads that was built in the Dutch colonial era. The development of the double-tract railroad will not convert as much agricultural land as the development of toll roads does. The development of railroad system will also consume less energy than the development of toll roads does.

In sum, we could argue that the development of Trans-Java toll road is not a sustainable solution for stimulating the economic growth in the island of Java. This solution is only a threat to the national food and energy security. The development of Trans-Java toll will not a cost-effective solution for the national interest. Alternatively, we could consider the development of railroad system that is more energy efficient and does not convert as much agricultural land as the development of toll road does.

(This post is an English version of the original article that appeared in the daily newspaper of Kompas on November 20, 2008. The article was also posted in the official websites of Badan Koordinasi Penataan Ruang Nasional and of Direktorat Tata Ruang dan Pertanahan Bappenas)

Do street vendors deserve urban space?

We often find problems associated with street vendors (pedagang kakilima) in many Indonesian cities. Street vendors do their activities in the sidewalks, city parks, cross walking bridges, and even in the streets. They are often seen as eye-sores and undesirable activities. In many cases, authorities forcibly evict street vendors in the name of urban order and cleanliness. Street vendors often resist the eviction and demand spaces for their activities. Do street vendors deserve urban space for their activities? To answer this question, I would like introduce the concept of urban informality as a framework for understanding street vendors that occur in urban areas.

Malioboro, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, originally uploaded by Mini Anna {Munandar}.

The concept of urban informality started from the dichotomy between the formal sector and the informal sector discussed in the early 1970s. The informal sector is a very common phenomenon that occurs in developing countries. The percentage of the informal sector in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia ranges between 30-70 percent of the total workforce. In Indonesia, according to data from the Statistics Central Bureau (BPS) in February 2008, 73.53 million out of 102.05 million (72%) workers worked in the informal sectors.

Although the discussions have been conducted for more than thirty years, there is no consensus on the exact definition of the informal sector (Maloney, 2004). Understanding of the informal sector is more often associated with the dichotomy between the formal and the informal sectors. The informal sector is often understood from the document issued by the International Labor Organization (1972). The ILO identified at least seven characters that distinguish these two sectors: (1) easy of entry, (2) easy to obtain raw materials, (3) the nature of ownership, (4) the scale of activities, (5) use of manpower and technology, (6) expertise requirements, and (7) deregulation and market competition.

The dichotomy of the formal and informal sectors often ignores the importance of the informal sectors with respect to urban spaces. The informal sectors are often marginalized in the urban spaces, even though the informal sectors account for 70% of the urban employment.

Ananya Roy and Nezar Alsayyad (2004) introduced the concept of informal urban areas as the logic that explains the process of urban transformation. They did not emphasize on the dichotomy of the formal and the informal sectors but on the understanding that the informal sector is parts of the economic structure of society. The urban informality is an urbanization mode that connects various economic activities and space in urban areas. The informality The inis not only a domain for the poor but also important for middle-class population.

Two urban theories, the Chicago School of Urban Sociology and the Los Angeles School of Urban Geography have dominated the discourse of urban development in developing countries, including in Indonesia. Both urban theories are based on phenomenon that occurred in urban cities in the United States. The Chicago School of Urban Sociology, which was developed in the early 1920s explain the development of the urban migration that is controlled by generating ecological patterns, such as invasion, survival, assimilated, adaptation and cooperation. The Los Angeles School of Urban Geography initiated in the late 1990s to explain the development of metropolitan Los Angeles in the postmodern era that emphasizes the importance of the capitalist economic and political globalization of the economy.

The dominance of both urban theories in the discourse of urban development influences the urban spatial planning in developing countries. Planning practices that replicate both urban theories through the dichotomy of developed and developing countries become ubiquitous. This becomes a problem when such a replication is no longer relevant with the unique urban phenomenon in developing countries, such as the informal sector.

Pedagang di Jl. Dr. Soetomo, originally uploaded by Abdul Manan.

The problems that arise in connection with street vendors is mostly caused by the lack of urban spaces for street vendors. The urban spatial planning that is not based on the understanding of urban informality concept will tend to ignore the demand for spaces to accommodate the informal sector, including street vendors. In addition, the dominance of the Chicago and Los Angeles Schools in the practice of urban planning in Indonesia has contributed to the lack of spaces for the informal sectors in urban areas. The spaces in urban areas are dominated by the urban sectors that have high economic value and the spaces for the informal sectors are marginalized.

The application of the concept of urban informality in understanding the phenomenon of street vendors will change our perspective on the existence of street vendors in urban areas. The street vendors are not the groups failed to enter the economic system in urban areas. They are one of the modes in the urban transformation that cannot be separated from the urban economy. They are one component of the urban economy that will benefit urban development.

The phenomenon of street vendors in Indonesian cities should be interpreted in the context of urban transformation. The application of the concept of urban informality in the practice of urban planning will allocate more urban spaces for the street vendors and integrate it with the formal sectors. The practice of urban planning in Indonesia also should not replicate the Chicago and Los Angeles schools, but modify them and take into account the unique urban phenomenon including the informal sector. The informal sectors, including street vendors, deserve more urban spaces to accommodate their activities that are parts of the urban economic system.

The new spatial planning law 26/2007 has stipulated the importance of the informal sector in urban areas, but the implementation of this new law is not fully enforced yet. The full enforcement of the new spatial planning law and the understanding of the urban informality concept are needed to ensure the availability of urban spaces for the street vendors.


  1. International Labor Organization. (1972). Employment, Incomes and Equality: A Strategy for Increasing Productive Employment in Kenya. Geneva: ILO.

  2. Maloney, William. (2004). Informality Revisited. World Development 32(7): 1159-1178

  3. Roy, Ananya and Nezar Alsayyad. (2004). Urban Informality: Transnational Perspectives from the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

(This article also appeared at The Jakarta Post on November 8, 2008)

A Historical Overview of the Spatial Planning in Indonesia

Spatial planning in Indonesia began in 1926 when the Nuisance Ordinance was introduced. The ordinance regulated certain industrial installation in certain areas through zoning and permit systems. Twenty-two years later, the first planning regulatory framework known as City Planning Ordinance or Staadvorming Ordonatie (SVO) was introduced and then followed by the implementation ordinance known as Stadsvorming Verordening (SVV) in 1949 (Hudalah et. al. 2007; Winarso and Firman 2002).

city (11)1, originally uploaded by budibudz.

After the enactments of SVO and SVV, there had been no legal frameworks for spatial planning until 1976. Several legal frameworks for spatial planning were enacted between 1976 and 1992. These legal frameworks regulated particular areas including the Greater Jakarta Area (Keppres 13/1976), Batam Island (Keppres 41/1973) and Puncak Area (Keppres 48/1983) and certain development sectors including rice field areas (Keppres 54/1980), industrial estate (Keppres 53/1989), tourism (Keppres 15/1983) and housing (Keppres 8/1985). All of these legal frameworks are presidential acts.

In 1982, the Ministry of Home Affairs enacted a decree on the guidance of city plan-making process (Permendagri 2/1987). This ministerial decree stipulated the standards and regulation for city plan-making process. Four years later, the Ministry of Public Works enacted similar decree on city plan-making process (Permen PU 640/1986). Both ministerial decrees became references for urban planners when they prepared city plans.

In response to the growing need for coordinating the management of natural resources, the Indonesia parliament passed the first spatial planning law, The Spatial Planning Law 24/1992 in October 1992. Spatial planning was defined in this law as plan-making process (proses perencanaan tata ruang), plan implementation (pemanfaatan ruang), and development control (pengendalian pemanfaatan ruang). The provision of this law is the guidelines of plan-making process, plan implementation and development control for national, provincial and local levels.

The Spatial Planning Law 24/1992 stipulated the principles of the spatial planning in Indonesia included integrity, sustainability, effectiveness, efficiency, compatibility, harmony, openness, equality, justice, and legal protection. The rights, obligations and participation of the people in the spatial planning were also stipulated in the Spatial Planning Law 24/1992. The people have rights to know the spatial plan, participate in the plan-making process and receive just compensation when their property is acquired for public uses. The detail regulation on the rights, obligation and participation of the people in spatial planning was issued in December 1996 (Peraturan Pemerintah 69/1996). This regulation was the first detail regulation enacted by the Indonesia government from the Spatial Planning Law 24/1992.

The Spatial Planning Law 24/1992 also stipulated the hierarchical spatial planning in Indonesia consisting of the national spatial plan (RTRW Nasional), the provincial spatial plans (RTRW Propinsi) and the district spatial plans (RTRW Kabupaten and RTRW Kotamadya). All levels of the government were required to make spatial plans for directing the development in their respective regions.

This law also differentiated spatial plan by the main function and the main activity of the area. Areas by the main function include environmental conservation areas (kawasan lindung) and non environmental conservation areas (kawasan budidaya). Urban areas (kawasan perkotaan), rural areas (kawasan perdesaan) and specific areas (kawasan tertentu) are areas differentiated by the main activity. Kawasan tertentu is area that has national strategic value and its spatial plan needs to be prioritized.

jakarta sunset, originally uploaded by chillntravel.

The fundamental institutional changes in Indonesia following the fall of the New Order Regime also affected the Spatial Planning Law 24/1992. This law was considered to be no longer relevant with new institutional settings. The Indonesia parliament passed the bill of spatial planning in April 2007 to replace the Spatial Planning Law 24/1992. The new law, the Spatial Planning Law 26/2007, contains some provisions that are not included in the previous law.

In accordance with the new decentralization laws, the Spatial Planning Law 26/2007 stipulates explicitly the authority of provincial governments (pemerintah propinsi) and of district governments (pemerintah kabupaten and pemerintah kota) in spatial planning. Such provision is not stipulated in the previous spatial planning law. In the previous law, the central government is responsible for spatial plan that covers areas in two or more provinces and the provincial government is responsible for spatial plan consisting of areas in two or more districts (kabupaten/kota). In the new law, spatial planning consisting of two or more provinces becomes the authority of respective provinces and should be used as a coordination tool for both provinces. The central government is no longer authorized to coordinate the spatial plan in the areas consisting of two or more provinces. The similar rule also applies to spatial planning covering two or more districts.

The Spatial Planning Law 26/2007 has one new principle of the spatial planning that is not included in the previous law. The principle of accountability is included in the new law and it is presumably to correspond with the enthusiasm of Indonesian people for more transparent and accountable system of government. The new law also stipulates the minimal standard of services in spatial planning. Such provision is to ensure the good quality of basic services of spatial planning for the Indonesian people. This is a response to the dissatisfaction of the Indonesian people over the poor quality of services from the government during the New Order Regime.

The new spatial law also takes into account the rapid urbanization in metropolitans in Indonesia particularly in the Greater Jakarta Area. The concepts of metropolitan area and megapolitan area are introduced in the new law. Such concepts were not parts of the previous spatial planning law. Metropolitan area is defined as an urban area with the population of at least 1 million people. The Spatial Planning Law 26/2007 defines megapolitan area as two or more adjoining metropolitan areas that have functional relationship.

One of the important provisions of the Spatial Planning Law 26/2007 is the requirement of at least 30% of urban areas for open spaces. The open spaces can be public and private open spaces. More specifically, public open spaces account for at least 20% of urban areas. In addition, this law stipulates that forest areas must be account for at least 30% of river stream areas. Such provision was not included in the previous spatial planning law.

The new spatial law provides some new ways for enhancing the development control including zoning, planning permits, implementation of incentive and disincentive and imposing sanctions including administration and criminal sanction. The incentives could be tax cut, compensation, cross subsidy, planning permit deregulation, and awards. The disincentives include higher tax, the limitation of infrastructure, imposing compensation and penalty. The implementation of incentive and disincentive could be from the central government to local governments (province, kabupaten and kota), from local government to other local governments and from governments to community.

The Spatial Planning Law 26/2007 also validates the importance of public participation in spatial planning. The new law provides more detailed regulations than the previous spatial planning law including rights, obligations and the forms of public participation in spatial planning. Such provisions correspond with the more participatory system of government after the fall of the New Order Regime.

  1. Larsson, Gerhard. (2006). Spatial planning systems in Western Europe. Washington, DC: IOS Press
  2. Hudalah, Delik and Johan Woltjer. (2007). Spatial planning system in transitional Indonesia. International Planning Studies 12(3): 291-303
  3. Winarso, Haryo and Tommy Firman. (2002). Residential land development in Jabotabek, Indonesia: triggering economic crisis? Habitat International 26: 487-506

Book Review: Planning the Megacity by Christopher Silver

This is the first post of a book review in this blog. The story started when I met with Christopher Silver at the 2007 ACSP Annual Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in October 2007. Professor Silver, Dean of the College of Design, Construction and Planning at the University of Florida, told me that his new book on Jakarta was getting published soon. I promised him that it would be my pleasure to publicize his book through my blog.

A few days after the conference, I contacted the publisher of Professor Silver's new book, Routledge, and was informed that the book would be available in mid November 2007. I received the book from Routledge in early December 2007 and in about a week I finished reading the book.

The book is a pleasure to read, engaging, well conceived and logically organized. There are seven chapters including (1) Understanding Urbanization and the Megacity in Southeast Asia, (2) Fashioning the Colonial Capital City, 1900-1940, (3) Plans for the Modern Metropolis, 1950-1970s, (4) Planning for Housing, Neighbourhoods and Urban Revitalization, (5) Expansion, Revitalization and the Restructuring of Metropolitan Jakarta: the 1970s to the early 1990s, (6) Urban Village to World City: Re-planning Jakarta in the 1990s, and (7) Planning in the New Democratic Megacity.

As we can see from the chapters, the time span examined from 1900 to the present makes this book valuable. More interestingly, the book discovers how the political intrigue of Suharto’s regime dictated the planning process, and how the political revolution triggered by the economic crisis of the late 1990 resulted in a more participatory and inclusionary planning process.

Professor Silver has been researching Indonesia since his first visit to Indonesia in October 1989 and has produced many peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on Indonesia. In addition, he has vast networks with Indonesian planners and scholars. As we can find on the acknowledgements of his book, Professor Silver had been in contact with numerous Indonesian people including Jakarta's most famous governor who just passed away a few days ago, Ali Sadikin, and the incumbent Jakarta's governor, Fauzi Bowo.

The book is carefully researched and provides historically detailed descriptions of the transformed Jakarta. Professor Silver collected and analyzed the information about planning in Jakarta from a wide range of references, including those from Amsterdam and Singapore, and interviews with most of Jakarta’s planning directors and administrators since the late 1960s to the present.

My review on this book has also been published in the Journal of the American Planning Association volume 74 issue 2 (March 2008) as you can find in this link.

Let me provide you with an excerpt of my review of Planning the Megacity: Jakarta in the Twentieth Century, as follows:

I have no doubt that this carefully researched study contributes to the
literature of international planning and planning history. Anyone with a
scholarly interest in the history of planning in Jakarta should read this book;
it can also serve as an excellent source of information in graduate and
undergraduate courses that focus on international planning, particularly in the
Southeast Asia region. It can also be a very useful reference for planners
conducting projects in Jakarta. In sum, I fully agree with Silver that
“[planning in Jakarta] is a history worth understanding and worth telling” (p.

Poor Residents Go Green and Generate Income

Living next the garbage tip - selling plastic, originally uploaded by kentclark333".

On April 4, 2008 The Jakarta Post reported a group of young men from a poor neighborhood in Kampung Toplang, Tegal Alur subdistrict in West Jakarta who recycle piles of garbage and make at least Rp. 1 million a month from their green activity. They built a bamboo hut on the field and make compost out of the organic waste and sort the nonorganic waste to be resold. The following link provides the detailed story about that group young men' s green activity:

The Jakarta Post - Kampung Residents Go Green and Make Money

The green activity of the young men from Kampung Toplang provides evidence that poor people can contribute to sustainable urban development. There are at least two contributions of that green activity for sustainable urban development: recycling the organic waste and the reusable nonorganic waste and alleviating poverty.

Waste disposal and poverty are two among many other urban problems that challenge the sustainability of urban development in Indonesian cities, including Jakarta. Neither waste disposal nor poverty is an small problem to address. Waste disposal becomes a pressing and persistent problem in many cities in Indonesia. For instance, the problem associated with the garbage dumping site in Bantargebang is still ongoing issue for Jakarta and Bekasi administrations. The volume of waste in Jakarta is nearly 28,000 cubic meter per day and it is not easy to address.

Similarly, poverty is a persistent problem in Indonesian cities. The National Socioeconomic Survey reported that there were 14.49 million Indonesian poor in 2006 living in urban areas, meaning they live below the poverty line of Rp. 174,290 per capita per month. These poverty lines are still less than the poverty line determined by the World Bank which is $2.00 a day. In Jakarta, many poor city residents resort to living on canal and river banks and were blamed as the cause of the flood. The poor people were accused of dumping the waste into rivers and cause the flood.

Bantargebang, originally uploaded by Neng Dew.

This post is to applaud the green activity by the young men in Kampung Toplang. Recycling the organic waste to produce compost and reselling the reusable nonorganic waste will significantly reduce the waste volume and improve the environmental quality of poor neighborhoods. Such an activity will also generate income for the poor residents and eventually will alleviate poverty in the neighborhood.

Two other things that I need to emphasize in this case are the role of knowledgeable and committed facilitators in initiating the activity and the importance of the support from other residents that make the activity sustainable. Two of the young men in the neighborhood had been working together advocating on behalf of the city's poor and have the knowledge of running a waste recycling business. Both men were able to convince other men in the neighborhood to iniatiate the recycling business and gain support from other residents to recycle their household waste. Without the initiative of the knowledgeable and committed two young men as the facilitators, the neighborhood would stay environmentally and economically poor.

This is a good example of how a community-based green activity works and addresses environmental problems in the slum neighborhoods. This green activity is also a strong case how poor people can contribute to sustainable urban development. That's why such green activity by the young men from Kampung Toplang should be applauded and replicated in other poor neighborhoods in Indonesian cities.

Decreasing Green Areas in Jakarta

New Style Gas Station, originally uploaded by cyberlucky.

The Jakarta City Council rejected the city parks agency's plan to create green spaces at 29 different gas station sites during final deliberations on the 2008 city budget (The Jakarta Post, March 6, 2008). The proposed budget of Rp. 2.6 billion was slashed by the Jakarta City Council and it is likely to make the city will be unable to meet the target for green areas as many as 13.94 percent of Jakarta's 63,744 hectares by 2010.

In 1965, the green areas made up more than 35 percent of the Jakarta's area and have been shrinking since then. Currently, the green areas in Jakarta account for only 9.3 percent of the area and it is far below the target of 30 percent set by the central government.

Decreasing green areas in Jakarta must be turned around. Green areas are an important urban element that make urban spaces more sustainable and livable. The annual floodings in Jakarta strongly indicate the urgency of green areas in Jakarta. More green areas are needed in Jakarta to absorb rainwater and eventually avert floodings.

Jakarta as the Indonesia's primary growth machine is poised to grow and expand its urban areas. The proportions of green areas in the Jakarta spatial plans decrease from 27.6 percent in the Jakarta spatial plan 1965-1985 to 13.94 percent in the current Jakarta spatial plan 2000-2010. New homes, condominiums, malls, hotels, commercials and office buildings have proliferated in Jakarta in the last three decades. Those new developments converted green areas, decreased water catchment areas and made urban areas more prone to floods.

The conversion of green areas in Jakarta is also the direct impact of poverty and unemployment. Despite a robust economic growth, Jakarta is still a place of poverty and unemployment. Many urban poor resort to living on the banks of rivers. The presence of squatters along the river banks decreases green areas and makes areas more vulnerable to floods.

Due to limited employment opportunities in the formal sector, most people with few skills and little education will end up in the informal sector as they attempt to make a living. Urban spaces for the informal sectors in Jakarta are very limited and it leads the informal sectors to occupy many green areas including city parks.

The gardens, originally uploaded by miganu.

The expansion of green areas in Jakarta is quite a challenge for the city administration because of the growing demand for urban areas to accomodate the economic growth and the presence of squatters and the informal sectors. Nonetheless, the decision of the city council to reject the plan of relocating 29 gas stations should be regretted. The city should not set aside the need of green areas over the importance of gas stations for meeting the needs of the growing number of motorized vehicles.

Not only will the decision halt the expansion of green areas but also promote the use of more motorized vehicles that will increase the carbon dioxide emissions resulted from the burning of vehicle fuels. The decision averts more green areas which are supposed to reabsorb the emission of carbon dioxide from the vehicles. The conversion of gas stations to green areas would also discourage more people to use private vehicles because the location of gas stations are no longer convenient for them. Eventually, more people would shift to public transportation.

The decision by the city council also reflects the unfairness towards poor people and the informal sector. There have been many cases of evictions of urban poor and the informal sectors for the sake of green areas in Jakarta, for example the eviction of the fish and flower traders in Jl. Barito in January 2008 to expand the Ayodia Park. It clearly indicates that the expansion of green areas is more easily implemented through the evictions of poor people and the informal sector than the relocation of gas stations or other formal sector activities.

The expansion of green areas must be implemented to any land uses that are not in compliance with the Jakarta spatial plan. The expansion should not only aim the informal sectors and squatters on the river banks but also any formal sectors that occupy areas designated as green areas in the Jakarta spatial plan including the gas stations. Therefore, the decision made by the Jakarta city council not to relocate gas stations should be revisited.

don't step on me, i want to live, originally uploaded by miunds.

(This article also appeared at The Jakarta Post on March 17, 2008)

In the Aftermath of Annual Floodings

the canals in kota Batavia, originally uploaded by Tom van Breda.

In the aftermath of recent flood, Jakarta Governor met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and they agreed that the most feasible solution for preventing floods in Jakarta is to expedite the completion of the East Flood Canal project. President Yodhoyono expected the land acquisition for the East Flood Canal project to be completed by 2009 and the project to be finished by 2010.

Such a response is an old way in preventing floods from paralyzing Jakarta in the future. Similar responses were also presented in the wake of the deadly floods that hit Jakarta in 2002 and 2007. The East Flood Canal project was initiated since 1973 but it had been on and off since then. The project stretches for 23.5 kilometers and 100 meters wide and will cut through several of the 13 rivers including Cipinang, Sunter, Buaran, Jatikramat, Cakung, and Blencong rivers towards the sea and pass through 11 neighborhoods in East Jakarta and 2 neighborhoods in North Jakarta.

The East Flood Canal project has progressed very slowly and failed to prevent annual floods in Jakarta. In response to the flood in 2002, the administration of President Megawati Sukarnoputri promised to build the East Flood Canal. Nothing has been done because of the high cost of land. The project requires at least 230 hectares to be purchased.

In the aftermath of last year flood, the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono set up a national flood control task force to expedite the East Flood Canal project and the project was expected to be completed by 2009. The Department of Public Work allocated Rp 2.1 trillion (US$233 million) for the project in 2007 and Rp 6.5 trillion would be disbursed over a three-year period.

As of January 2008, the Indonesian Environmental Forum (WALHI) claimed that the administration has only acquired 30% of the land for the project (The Jakarta Post, January 26, 2008). The East Jakarta Mayor, Koesnan Abdul Halim acknowledged the ongoing disputes with the residents who live in the land for the project that thwarted the attempts to expedite the East Flood Canal project.

Residents in Marunda subdistricts and Cilincing district claim ownership over land the Jakarta administation had purchased and they tried to stop dozens of the project workers. They asserted that they never received any payment from the government for the land they lived in (The Jakarta Post, January 15, 2007). Such disputes will certainly slow down the progress of the East Flood Canal project.

Slum, originally uploaded by Shaolin Tiger.

The exorbitant cost of land is the major reason why the progress of the East Flood Canal project for preventing future flooding in Jakarta is very slow. The East Flood Canal is sought to be most feasible solution for preventing future flooding in Jakarta, but apparently the East Flood Canal is not easy to be materialized. Alternatively, the gradual relocation of the central functions of Jakarta should be pursued to mitigate the impacts of future flooding or even to prevent future flooding.