Experts predict that Jakarta's population will hit 30 million people by 2020, placing considerable strain on infrastructure and quality of life in the city.
In the next decade, the nation's capital will draw people for work but push people to live in its surrounding area, forcing the workforce to commute for hours each day.
Experts warn of increased traffic, which will cause higher levels of pollution, a collapse of the public transportation network and environmental degradation from uncontrolled groundwater extraction and increased sewage.
Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo said at the Sustainable Jakarta Convention that at this rate of growth, the capital does not have much room for error.
"Nature's capacity to recover is not in line with the *city's* rate of growth. That's our particular challenge," he said.
Currently, with a population of 8.8 million in Jakarta and an additional 15.7 million in its satellite cities - Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi - the city already faces major problems.
Apart from the Idul Fitri holiday exodus, it is rare to see blue skies in Jakarta. More often, city dwellers experience hazy gray skies.
According to data from the environment agency, only 5 percent of the total days (about 18 days) in 2006 had good air quality; 62 percent were moderate and 31 percent unhealthy. Data from the agency says that 75 percent of the city's air pollution is caused by traffic.
Into the next decade, as the middle class live further from the city where land is cheaper, more and more people will commute by car to the city. With 18 percent vehicle growth per year and slow improvement in public transportation, Jakarta's streets will be gridlocked by 2014, experts have warned.
In a study into the city's transportation master plan (Sitram 2004), it was predicted that unless the government made dramatic improvements, by 2020 there would be 6.8 million new vehicles and 90 percent of the central business district areas of Jakarta would be clogged. Jakartans will have to spend more time on the road as average traveling speed would fall to a maximum of 24.6 kilometers per hour.
At the Sustainable Jakarta Convention, former mayor of Colombian capital Bogota, Enrique Penalosa, architect of that city's busway system and director of Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, said facilitating growth of private car ownership was not the answer to Jakarta's traffic problems. It will instead exacerbate the problem.
He said the busway system was the only way for Jakarta to improve mobility throughout the city as the cost of construction and operation would be less than a rail-based transportation system.
Jakarta's busway system, which was started under former governor Sutiyoso, was heralded as the public transportation system that would ease Jakarta's traffic woes. Five years since its inception, some bus lanes are made to share their lanes with private vehicles, while passengers stand in long queues to squeeze into overloaded buses. On top of this, while the administration prepares the mass rapid transit (MRT) mega project, Transjakarta's corridors 9 and 10 are deserted, dusty and vandalized; the result of failed bus procurement plans that have been stalled for more than a year.
Bad public transportation would take its toll on millions of productive middle-class workers, who would be pushed to suburban areas where housing is more affordable.
The poor, meanwhile, would stay in inner-city slum areas, a potential problem if the city does not invest in land to build affordable housing for the poor. Penalosa said governments should buy land so that the price would not be controlled by investors and to make sure poor people did not end up in slums.
Urban expert Iwan Priyanto said that one of Jakarta's problems was that the administration did not prepare any land for future development. He compared Jakarta to Singapore, which he said was almost the same size as Jakarta.
"Singapore designates 12 percent of its land for residential use and 19 percent for parks and entertainment. Meanwhile, in Jakarta, 64 percent of land is classed as residential while only 2 percent is devoted to parkland. Singapore has 30 percent land for future development, while Jakarta does not have *any land in* that category," he said in the seminar.
Another huge problem in the capital is marginalization of the poor. The city lacks public spaces where people from all walks of life can enjoy the city. To socialize in public, Jakartans go to the mall, which excludes the poor. On top of this is the bylaw on public order, which urban activists say criminalizes the poor and forces them away from the city. Under the bylaw, public order officers have the power to carry out raids on people who do not have identification and bus them away.
While the city is so intent on upholding the bylaw on public order, law enforcement on other bylaws such as the ban on public smoking has literally gone up in smoke. The administration's policy of compulsory emissions testing for private vehicles is also lacking in monitoring.
On monitoring groundwater extraction, the Jakarta Environmental Agency said it was difficult to monitor all offenders. Some residents often find that groundwater pumping is the only alternative as the water company's coverage ratio is still below targets set in 2006, according to Jakarta's water regulatory body.
Former minister for the environment Emil Salim said the city would not survive under the current rate of growth. He suggested Jakarta be relieved from being a multifunction city by decentralizing industry and trade to surrounding areas while maintaining the city's role as the nation's center of government.
He said that trade in the city, with its malls and hypermarkets, were like sugar for ants. "We should move the city so that the ants move as well," he said.
As the city faces a plethora of problems, the governor said regulations within the central government, as well as with neighboring regencies and cities were hampering the effort to improve Jakarta.
"Those who want to replace me as governor should prepare for it. The governor of Jakarta needs to have a spare heart," he said.