Three high school girls were sitting on the grass under the shade of trees nearby, enjoying the cool breeze and chirping birds. At times, the peaceful atmosphere was interspersed with their giggles.
Just a few meters away, motorists were battling Jakarta’s notorious traffic jams under the scorching heat and amid the belches of black smoke coming from passing public buses heading to Blok M bus terminal.
The three — Amnes, Alimah and Aini — were students at a vocational school near the Langsat Senior Citizens Park in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta. From time to time, they will hop on a bus to the park to chill out after school hours before returning home.
“It’s nice to be here to have some girls’ talk and relax. The park is large enough but I do wish the pond was cleaner,” said Alimah, pointing to a small pond behind them.
Taman Langsat Park is located near three other parks — Taman Ayodya on Jl. Barito, Taman Leuser on Jl. Leuser and Taman Puring on Jl. Kyai Maja.
These parks may not be in perfect shape but they have become sanctuaries for passersby and surrounding residents.
The 3.5-hectare Taman Langsat Park has two main gates with the first located across Taman Ayodya, next to the row of stalls selling birds, rabbits and cats, while the second is located near a housing area on
Jl. Langsat 3.
The park, which has most visitors in the afternoon, has a long jogging track and reflexology walking paths with some grips. A number of green iron benches are placed around the park, allowing visitors to sit comfortably.
Alimah said the four parks had their own character and the decision to visit one of them depended on her needs.
“Taman Ayodya may have a pretty water fountain and nice in the afternoon, but it lacks trees and is exposed to heat during the day,” she says.
Taman Ayodya Park, which was opened in 2009 at the expense of flower and decorative fish sellers, has an open design and eye-catching concept, while both Taman Langsat and Taman Leuser are surrounded by high iron fences and are restricted in their opening hours.
The 13,000-square-meter Puring Park — located by Puring market, the Kebayoran Baru police district office, a post office and a pawnshop — includes a playground for children but the park is poorly maintained and dominated by small trees, while food wrapping and other trash is scattered around in some spots.
Taman Leuser is the smallest of the four and also hosts the Park and Cemetery Agency’s warehouse.
The agency’s employee, Harji, said the 4,000-square-meter Taman Leuser is not listed as an interactive park due to its small size. “This park is more of an environmental park, but we are also open to visitors and closing time is around 6 p.m.,” he said.
Harji, who has been working for the agency for 36 years, blamed a company assigned to maintain the park for its poor condition.
“Unfortunately, I can only watch. I don’t have the power to cut their contract and my reports [on the poor maintenance] are not listened to,” he said.
Landscape expert Nirwono Joga said there were around 350 parks in the city, but only around 10 of them were in good shape.
“The city has two jobs concerning green areas. The first is to better maintain the existing parks so they are worth visiting and the second is to increase the number of green areas,” he said.
Currently, the city consists of 9.8 percent green areas, far below the 30 percent targeted in the city’s 2030 spatial planning. The city administration blames the high cost of land procurement, limited availability of land and residents’ objections for the low number of green spaces.
Nirwono said those challenges were understandable, but they should not be used as an excuse. “The city should be forward thinking and creative in its moves to add green areas,” he says.
Citing examples, he said the administration could involve companies to build parks as part of their CSR.
“The companies can build the parks on land provided by the city and make use of idle land around the railways, under bypasses or around beaches and lakes,” Nirwono said.
He said they could also encourage public participation by giving building tax breaks to residents who were committed to preserving a part of their land for green areas.
Other parks in Jakarta
• Hutan Kota (City Forest) Krida Loka inside Senayan Sports Center
• Hutan Kota Srengseng in Kembangan, West Jakarta
• Hutan Kota Tebet in Tebet, South Jakarta
• Taman Menteng in Central Jakarta
• Taman Suropati in Menteng, Central Jakarta
• Taman Situ Lembang in Menteng, Central Jakarta
• Taman Christina Martha Tiahahu near Blok M bus terminal in Jakarta
• Taman National Monument (Monas)
• Taman Lapangan Banteng
— JP/Indah Setiawati