Jakarta’s gubernatorial election: a call for change

Published in East Asia Forum, September 29th, 2012

Author: Fitrian Ardiansyah, ANU,

original linkhttp://www.eastasiaforum.org/2012/09/29/jakartas-gubernatorial-election-a-call-for-change/

Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s expected victory in the final round of Jakarta’s gubernatorial election against incumbent Governor Fauzi ‘Foke’ Bowo has sent a clear message that the government’s approach to managing Jakarta’s complex urban systems needs to change profoundly.

Official results will not be available until 1 October, but according to exit polls taken on 20 September 2012, Jokowi gained approximately 53–54 per cent of the votes while Foke obtained 46 per cent.

Jokowi’s running mate, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known as ‘Ahok’), is a Christian with an ethnic-Chinese background. In the lead up to the final round of the election, several Muslim figures beseeched their constituents not to vote for a non-Muslim candidate, a clear message for voters to back away from the Jokowi–Ahok team. Seeing the increase in intolerance in Jakarta (and Indonesia as a whole), many Jakartans, including Jokowi’s supporters, reacted by calling for people to be rational and to elect candidates based on their performance. Many utilised social-media platforms — Jakarta having recently been named the most active Twitter city in the world — to convey their messages of tolerance. This seems to have paid dividends for Jokowi.

The results may have interesting implications for the approaching 2014 legislative and presidential elections. Jokowi was supported by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (the party of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri) and Gerindra (the party of former Suharto-era strongman and 2014 presidential frontrunner Prabowo Subianto). Foke was backed by the Democratic Party (the largest party in the parliament and the party of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) and Golkar (the party of the former dictator Suharto). Such a shift in party support could foreshadow political change at the national level.

The key topics of debate during the campaign, however, related to challenges facing the megacity of Jakarta.

Jakarta has constantly struggled to find a balance between promoting development and providing a safe, healthy environment for its inhabitants. The city’s infrastructure has not kept up with its fast-growing population and high level of density. The state of the city’s poor infrastructure is hugely challenging for Jakartans.

Seasonal flooding is a serious problem, as Jakarta lacks the physical capacity to absorb high rainfall. Regular fire incidents in Jakarta have been associated with densely populated areas across the city and the mismanagement of urban slums and poverty — officials claim such incidents are mainly the result of illegal power connections. But the biggest topic of debate is the heavy traffic congestion; Jakarta’s traffic crisis is estimated to cost at least US$1.4 billion a year. A dramatic increase in multiple-vehicle ownership in Jakarta has not only led to traffic jams, but also to an increase in air pollution, which leads to high levels of respiratory and other serious diseases.

The outgoing governor has made efforts to address this issue, for instance, by pushing for special bus lines and a program for mass rapid-transport systems. Last year, the central government disbursed US$32.4 million in efforts to boost infrastructure development in and around the capital, partly aimed at improving transport infrastructure. But, according to many critics, these investments still fell far short of the Jakartan people’s expectations. Slow implementation and weak governance and law enforcement, as well as limited incentives and disincentives for the public to change their behaviour, have created major obstacles for the city government to overcome this issue.

The challenge of flooding is a similar story. While the outgoing governor and city administration claim to have been successful in addressing the issue, in particular by building the East Flood Canal, many point to the need for more comprehensive solutions.

Solutions for traffic jams and flooding, as well as many other issues, require changes in the behaviour of Jakartans (for example, flooding would be easier to address if people stopped throwing rubbish directly into rivers and drains). Jakartans need to realise that they contribute to the city’s problems, and their behaviour therefore needs to change if they are to be part of the solution. Regardless of any programs put in place by the city government, without active public participation, the desired outcomes will be hard to achieve.

Jokowi claims to have the appropriate solutions for Jakarta’s problems, drawing on his experience as the mayor of the Central Javan city of Surakarta (or Solo). As the mayor of Surakarta, and a nominee for the World Mayor 2012 awards, Jokowi has a reputation as a clean and down-to-earth leader. He demonstrated these characteristics in his previous role through his reluctance to draw a salary, the implementation of one-day processing for ID cards, and improvements to the informal sector and markets.

Jokowi’s critics argue that the challenge of running Jakarta is on a different level to the challenge of running Surakarta, the population of which is little more than half a million. But he and his running mate have a great opportunity to change Jakarta. The numbers show that the majority of Jakartans support the newly elected governor and vice governor. Their biggest challenge is to engage with all Jakartans, to encourage them to be part of the solution and to prove that they are the right leaders to run this megacity.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.


How do we make sure our cities stay liveable?

Fitrian Ardiansyah, The Jakarta Post, Climate Solutions Column | Tue, 09/28/2010 11:27 AM | Environment

Recently, the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) predicted that heavy rains would hit Jakarta at the end of this year and would be likely to cause major flooding.

Flooding is not a new issue and Jakarta, as many other big cities in Indonesia including Bandung, Semarang and Surabaya, have unfortunately grown accustomed to it.

In 2007, flooding in Jakarta affected 80 subdistricts, causing traffic chaos and paralyzing the city.

More than 70,000 houses were inundated, with water levels ranging from 10 centimeters to 5 meters, 69 people were killed and an estimated 420,440 people were displaced. The Indonesian government estimated that losses amounted to Rp 4.1 trillion (US$450 million).

Last week, torrential rain in many areas of Jakarta flooded several underpasses in the eastern and southern parts of the city and was reported to have killed one man and inundated 12 subdistricts.

Rain — heavy or not — often leads to heavy traffic congestion during the rush hour in Jakarta and other cities. One study estimates that traffic jams cost Jakarta at least $1.4 billion a year in lost productivity.

In one of its reports, the BMKG projects there is an increasingly high risk and frequency of flooding and storm surge across Indonesia, as the global temperature increases.

Even though the flooding may not be as bad as that of 2007, the BMKG predicts that this rain, probably combined with a higher level of seawater, could still cause Jakarta to be submerged.

With an increase in the frequency of extreme weather and other climate-hydrological risks, the capacity of the capital city and other cities in Indonesia in dealing with this issue remains in question.

Climate change itself will merely intensify the pressure on these cities that have already been experiencing environmental degradation for decades.

Cities now cover less than 1 percent of the planet’s surface, but they are home to around 50 percent of the world’s population and growing rapidly. In Indonesia, according to the 2009 World Population Data Sheet, 40 to 50 percent of the country’s total population lives in urban areas.

The growth of cities and urban areas usually coincides with a rapid increase in a demand for land, energy, water and other natural resources, triggered by industrial activity, transportation infrastructure, office operations and housing for the new urban dwellers.

Particularly in developing countries, this growth translates into environmental challenges including lack of access to clean drinking water, urban water and air pollution, waste management, flooding and lack of green areas or open spaces.

This growth also contributes to the current global greenhouse gas emissions.

Policies, programs and actions need to be formulated now and implemented immediately to deal with the ongoing environmental challenges and adapt to future climate impacts.

In response to the challenge of flooding, last Friday, for instance, Jakarta’s governor promised that various efforts would be made to prevent any major flooding from inundating the capital city of Jakarta. This was the latest in a string of promises he has already made and the people of Jakarta have waited long enough to see if this is actually going to be implemented.

With the current land-use management, Jakarta and other cities have little capacity to absorb a high level of rainfall, while nearby rivers cannot discharge water into the sea since they are clogged with waste and because the sea may already be experiencing a higher volume of water.

Experts have previously pushed for a variety of solutions, including improved urban planning and infrastructure, such as improving water, wastewater and sewerage systems and services, maintaining the rest and creating new green open spaces, improving waste management and improving public transportation.

These solutions, if developed and implemented appropriately, not only can minimize the impact of environmental problems and climate change but are also an opportunity as a basis for achieving sustainable development.

City governments and the private sector firms that have influenced the cities’ economic growth, however, are not the only actors to be considered.

Another key factor when dealing with these environmental and climate challenges is involving the citizens of Jakarta, particularly to change their behavior in consuming energy and other products and managing their waste.

As reported in many studies and the media, the emerging middle classes in Indonesia’s large cities, especially in Jakarta, have altered consumption patterns and subsequently put additional pressure on natural resources, contributing to local water and air pollution and waste.

For example, a dramatic increase in the number of vehicles in Jakarta, often characterized by the ownership of multiple cars per family, has led to an increase in air pollution, associated with high levels of respiratory disease and other serious diseases.

The high level of consumption has generated a high level of waste, or around 6,500 tons per day for Jakarta. Experts calculate that about 20 percent of Jakarta’s daily solid waste ends up in the city’s rivers and canals, blocking their flow and reducing their ability to deal with floodwater by up to 50 percent.

There are organizations, nevertheless, currently working with students and showing the link between littering and natural disasters, that teaches them how to recycle waste materials and what to do in the event of a major flood.

This effort is laudable but needs to be supported further and scaled up.

Cities have always been a hot spot of innovation and technology and have, therefore, traditionally been the places where many of the solutions to the world’s problems are reached.

There are always choices — to have a liveable city or a doomed one — and now is the right time to make that choice.

The writer is a Ph.D. candidate at the Australian National University, the recipient of an Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award and adviser to WWF-Indonesia on climate and energy. He can be reached at fitrian.ardiansyah@anu.edu.au.

Original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/09/28/climate-solution-how-do-we-make-sure-our-cities-stay-liveable.html