In the aftermath of the recent floods in Jakarta, the high level of urbanization was blamed as one of the culprits in the disaster that caused environmental destruction in Jakarta’s peripheral areas which were supposed to be water catchment areas. How high was the level of urbanization in Jakarta? How did urbanization cause the reduced water catchment areas in Jakarta’s peripheral areas? Before answering those questions, it is important to know what urbanization is.
The term of urbanization refers to the proportion of total population that lives in urban area. There is common mistake of thinking of urbanization as simply the growth of cities. We need to distinguish between urbanization and the growth of cities. Urbanization is a change that has a beginning and an end, but the growth of cities has no inherent limit.
Jakarta is a fully urbanized area. Since the 1990 Census, the Statistics Indonesia (BPS) determines all parts of the Jakarta’s jurisdiction are urban area. In the context of urbanization, Jakarta has come to the end. On the other hand, the growth of city which is commonly misunderstood as urbanization is still occurring in Jakarta. The growth of Jakarta has generated suburbanization in Jakarta’s peripheral areas.
Not only is Jakarta the capital of Indonesia, it is the economic, commercial and transportation hub of the nation. The Indonesia’s economy has been growing at a robust pace of 6 percent a year and Jakarta has been Indonesia’s primary growth machine. The growth of Jakarta has generated the land conversion to urban area in the Jakarta’s neighboring areas. The growth occurring in Jakarta creates the demand for housing and other urban services in Jakarta’s neighboring areas. The growth of Jakarta causes suburbanization in Jakarta’s neighboring areas. The periphery of Jakarta which was previously non-urban areas converts to urban areas in order to accommodate the growth of Jakarta. Lots of converted areas were areas which were supposed to be water catchment areas.
In the last two decades, the growth of Jakarta’s population is slower than that of Indonesia’s population. The total population of Jakarta even dropped from 9,112,652 in 1995 as recorded by the 1995 National Intercensal Population Survey to 8,361,079 in 2000 according to the 2000 Census. The decrease of Jakarta’s population in 1995-2000 was caused by the suburbanization and the slow economic growth due to the 1997 economic crisis. On the other hand, the periphery of Jakarta has experienced a drastic increase in population. The population in the periphery Jakarta has tripled from 4.4 million in 1980 to 12.6 million in 2000, while Jakarta’s population increased by only 30 percent. The Jakarta’s population back up to 8,860,381 in 2005 after a number of apartment complexes were built in Jakarta that bring back the residents live in the central city.
The growth of Jakarta is the cause of suburbanization in Jakarta’s peripheral areas. The higher economic growth of Jakarta the higher pressure in Jakarta’s peripheral areas to suburbanize. As long as Jakarta still becomes the primary growth machine of the nation the economic growth of Jakarta will be strongly associated with the pace of Indonesia’s economic growth and will correspond to the suburbanization in Jakarta’s neighboring areas. One way of reducing the pressure of suburbanization in Jakarta’s peripheral areas is to relocate the source of Jakarta’s growth. The idea of relocating the nation’s capital out of Jakarta as supported by some candidates of Jakarta’s governor is one way to reduce the suburbanization in Jakarta’s peripheral areas.
In addition, the suburbanization of Jakarta’s peripheral areas was generated by the influx of migrants from other parts of the nation particularly from poor regions of Java Island. During 1995-2005 the average number of migrants who migrated to neighboring areas of Jakarta was 1.6 million people a year. Poverty in rural areas in Java Island became a factor that pushed people from rural areas to move to urban areas. The rural poor migrate to urban area as a way of escaping from the poverty. There is inextricable link between rapid suburbanization in Jakarta’s peripheral areas and poverty in Java’s rural areas.
Wilmar Salim provided a very interesting analogy between rural poverty and urban agglomerations in Java. He identified urban agglomerations as lotuses and rural poor as those who need a base for escaping from poverty. He raised critical question of how long will the lotuses be able to stay afloat and suggested several policy for alleviating rural poverty.
Below is some excerpts of his article that appeared in the Jakarta Posts on December 22, 2006:
... Moreover, 12.5 million (57.9 percent) of the poor in Java live in rural areas. In other words, the poor are concentrated in rural areas, and 32 out of 100 poor Indonesians lived in rural Java in 2000. Though the current figures are unknown, we can guess that they are similar.
What was not really discussed in either report was the spatial distribution of the poor in Java. Poverty mapping conducted by SMERU Research Institute (2004) showed that poverty enclaves were created in areas far from urban agglomerations, such as Jabodetabek, Bandung Raya or Gerbangkertosusila (Surabaya Metropolitan Area). The southern part of Banten and West Java, the central part of Central Java, the south-west and south-east parts of East Java, and the island of Madura were areas with high concentrations of poor in 2000.
At the same time, the growth of Javanese cities shows conflicting patterns between the census in 1990 and 2000. Some of these cities, especially those in the above agglomerations, experienced positive or even rapid population growth. But some, i.e. Surakarta, Yogyakarta, Magelang, Kediri and Madiun, experienced a negative growth, or in other words, lost some of their populations. A closer look at the distribution of the poor reveals that cities that have positive or rapid growth tend to be surrounded by subdistricts with less poor populations.
Thus, the poverty situation in rural areas surrounding cities in Java is better than in more remote areas far from cities. This explains why the growth rate in big cities in Java is so great, since these cities are like lotuses that provide a base for the poor to get out of poverty. The catch is if we are not looking into rural conditions, how long will these lotuses be able to stay afloat?
The above phenomenon reflects a condition that Niles Hansen in the 1970s described as urban crisis caused by extreme poverty in rural areas due to unbalanced development. Thus, regional development policies must be enacted to balance development and ease the crisis. The bottom line is that state intervention is needed to invest in measures to support productive sectors in remote rural areas, and also increasing attention must be paid to small and medium cities.
Policies to balance development in Java can be threefold: First, control development expansion in major urban agglomerations so they will not overheat. The government will not be able to really slow down development in these cities, but it can reallocate its public investments to other areas.
Second, optimize investments that support economic activities in small and medium cities, and promote a friendly climate for private investment. Infrastructure development that supports production, such as electricity and telecommunications, needs to be intensified. Furthermore, commercial centers in the small and medium cities must be revitalized.
Third, maximize public investments in social overhead capital in areas remote from cities, and try to encourage economic activities in these areas by improving access to economic resources for villagers...
(This article also appeared at The Jakarta Post on March 27, 2007 and then it was linked at The Center of Southeast Asian Studies of Xiamen University, China and at The Development from Disasters Network)