Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Recent floods in Jakarta are strong evidence that urbanisation must be reduced

The link below shows my article appeared at Singapore's largest newspapers of The Straits Times on February 21, 2007.

Online Story

In case of the link is not available, below is the article:

Feb 21, 2007
Recent floods in Jakarta are strong evidence that urbanisation must be reduced

JAKARTA is hit by deadly floods each year and this year is the worst flood in memory. At one point, the flood inundated about 70 per cent of the city. It killed at least 57 people and sent about 450,000 fleeing their homes. The city's hospitals struggled with an influx of patients suffering from diarrhoea, dengue and severe respiratory problems. The flood paralysed the centre of Indonesia's economy for several days and businesses claimed to lose about US$1 billion (S$1.54 billion).

The flood is not a new problem for Jakarta. Has the government learnt from previous floods? Does the Jakarta administration have a master plan of drainage and flood mitigation?
In the aftermath of deadly floods in 2002, the government drafted a master plan to expand the Dutch-built city's canal system. Two centuries ago, the Dutch colonial government, with its long experience of controlling water and drainage systems, built the canal system to protect the city's population which was then 500,000. Jakarta, which lies in the lowland with 43 lakes and 13 rivers, relies on the canal system to prevent flooding.

Jakarta's Governor, Mr Sutiyoso, blamed limited financial support from the central government to expand the city's canal system as the culprit in the disaster. Mr Sutiyoso also blamed deforestation and overbuilding in neighbouring areas which were supposed to be water catchment areas. On the other hand, Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar put the blame on excessive construction of residential and commercial buildings in the city that violate environmental impact analyses.

Both arguments are incomplete. Beyond their arguments, the bottom line we can learn from the annual Jakarta floods that are growing worse is that Jakarta has not been able to sustain its growth. In urban planning, we know growth management and smart growth. Jakarta needs more than the two. It needs growth redistribution.

Not only is Jakarta the capital of Indonesia, it is also the economic, commercial, cultural and transportation hub of the nation. Jakarta is the prime city of Indonesia and it dominates the urban system. The population in Jakarta is far more than in any other city in Indonesia. The population of metropolitan Jakarta was 14 million in 2005. The second and third largest cities are Bandung and Surabaya with 2005 populations of 4.2 million and 2.9 million respectively. The area of Jakarta is only 0.3 per cent of Indonesia's total area but its population was 6.3 per cent of Indonesia's population in 2005. It grew from only 4.4 per cent in 1985. The domination of Jakarta is predicted to become larger in coming years. The predicted Jakarta population by the United Nations World Population Prospects in 2015 is 17.8 million which will account for 7.2 per cent of Indonesia's population.

Jakarta's rapid urbani ation is inextricably linked with highly concentrated growth in Jakarta. The recent flood demonstrates that Jakarta has not been able to sustainably accommodate this urbanisation. It also demonstrates how the growth in Jakarta confronts private consumption and public investment in infrastructure. The Indonesian economy has growing at a robust pace of 6 per cent a year and Jakarta has been Indonesia's primary growth machine. New homes, commercial and office buildings have proliferated in Jakarta and its neighbouring areas, but hardly any new infrastructures, including the expansion of Jakarta's canal system, have been built in the past 10 years since the economic crisis hit Indonesia in 1997.

The recent flood is strong evidence that rapid urbanisation in Jakarta must be reduced. One way to reduce the rapid urbanisation in Jakarta is to eliminate the pull factor of urbanisation. One major pull factor of urbanisation in Jakarta is its function as Indonesia's capital. It is not impossible to relocate Indonesia's capital out of Jakarta. Indonesia needs to learn from Brazil when it relocated the capital in the 1960s from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia, or Malaysia when it relocated the legislative and judicial branches in the 1990s from Kuala Lumpur to Putra Jaya. Relocating Indonesia's capital out of Jakarta will not only make Jakarta more sustainable but also create regional equality in Indonesia.

Deden Rukmana
The writer is an Indonesian national and an assistant professor of urban studies at Savannah State University, USA.

(This article was also linked at Wild Singapore)


Anonymous said...

Deden: moving state capital out of Jakarta? Why not? Anyway, it will cost lots of money and may causing problems among central government officers like me. Can you imagine that tens of thousands of civil servants and hundreds of thousands of their families must think about many things like leaving jobs, new schools, new houses, etc. Government may compensate some (if it could), but the problem is not about money. Social problems must be considered as the key in officers' side.

Other problem is about the readiness of the new location. To prepare the new capital, how will government finance it? Regarding to many problems we face nowadays, there are many things to take care of before thinking about a new capital, right? Anyway, why not?

Deden Rukmana said...

Agus: Relocating capital out of Jakarta from the point of view of a central government official like yourself is not an easy choice. I fully agree with your argument, however we need also to know how other Indonesian people especially those who live outside Jakarta or the island of Java respond to this idea.
I would argue that they would have different perspective. Anyone from outside Jakarta or Java would like to express your perspective?

Anonymous said...

If Malaysian can move their seat of power from Kualalumpur to Putrajaya, why can't Indonesian move the istanas to, say, Tenggarong? Social cost? Long term projection might explain how big the cost and benefit for such actions. Shifting the capitol does not mean shifting the capital. Keyword here is "Long Term". and good planning, of course. Vision, among other thing is the most important aspect.
And from here things start to fall apart. Indonesian are notorious for their instability and uncertainty. So, good bye the term "long term"
since long term planning and budgetting assumed stability and certainty. So forget about the cost and benefit projections because it will never give you even the farthest image of it.
Good planning? Aha, another sad story. We never had such, so we might as well forget about it either. Among other thing, lack of vision is key in this drama, while vision is what make the big difference between good planning and mediocre planning. Indonesian planning schools might have their share in this case, although other factors: political, socio-economic, or cultural, play and even bigger share in contributing to this chaotic planning situation.
And last but not least, since capital in Indonesia always moves in a closed circle around the political power, as history might suggests, then moving the capitol would affect the economy in a significant way. But not necessarily in a good way because the unpredictability of everyhing in Indonesia makes it very hard to predict anything. And more often than not, unpredictability give way only to unpleasant surprises. (I was never good in economy, so I would rest my case here. somebody can pinch in as they wish from this point onward.)
Then, moving the capitol to somewhere else might only create another "Jakarta". Wait some ten years or so, it will be flooded again. illegal housing shall abound almost at every corner of it. congestion. pollution. crime. shopping malls and rukos. bumpy ride of busways. motorcycles.
And the original Jakarta will stay the same, if not to say become worst.
So the chance for moving our capitol is to have two identical ugly Jakartas. Sounds pessimistic? Hey, after all I am Indonesian! And as far as I am concern, the world had never witnessed a successful fully-planned capitol. Look at New Delhi, Chandigarh, or Brasilia, although Washington DC might be a different case.

Deden Rukmana said...

Widya: Thank you for bringing the issue of planning up in your comment. Indeed, it is quite a challenge for those who are supporting the idea of capital relocation. Planning as defined by Friedmann as a systematic attempt to shape the future and link knowledge to actions in the public domain will get more challenging when there are instability and uncertainty. There are many ways to deal with uncertainty and risk in planning, but how far we can go with them?
As you said, we need to have strong vision in considering the idea of capital relocation. Vision is a choice and it is formulated through highly political process. Nonetheless, I would argue that politically and economically unbiased vision would lead to relocating Indonesia's capital out of Jakarta.

Anonymous said...

As a simple layman, I need to see a list of all possible advantages in moving the capital. Simply saying that this relocation will solve centralization of economy and power is not enough. Also, it might be possible that this relocation will simply create a new center of power.

What I really want to see is a good distribution of economic powers througout the region. At this point I don't see that relocation of capital will guarantee this.

The question still remains: does separating the political power from Jakarta will be followed by decentralization of economy?

dwiAgus said...

Relocating the capitol is easier said than done. A good reasoning on the benefit and cost of the relocation would raise another endless discussion.
As pak Tjipto views, I also favor relocating some economic power through out the region.
And let alone Jakarta deal with the flood. Jakarta is supposed to be smart and capable to cope with this humiliating problem.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any idea why Paris is still in Paris, London is still in London, and Tokyo is still in Tokyo? Do you think they don't have similar metropolitan/ mega city problems as Jakarta, Bangkok, etc.? Putrajaya is not the case, remember Kualalumpur is not as big as Jakarta, Bangkok, Tokyo...

meds said...

i dont agree with the idea relocation, moving the capital to other aera, it will not solve the problem as long as the root problem is fporgoten.

new place soon and soon will have many problem like jakarta, croweded, dense population, traffic jam, criminal, air polution, etc. jakarta, the capital city, many interest meet here.

relocation is need much money too.

so, i thing the more important to do is, we mus seek the root problem and solve it.