In the deep: The Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, the heart of the city located in Central Jakarta, is inundated in this file photo taken on Jan. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)
The need is growing for the sustainable development of Jakarta, and for the city to be more resilient against the impact of climate change, to be able to compete economically with other cities in the world.
With its poor spatial planning and infrastructure, the city may suffer more severe damage caused by the impact of climate change than that suffered by New York City in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which hit two US states — New York and New Jersey — last year, or what Bangkok had to deal with following the 2011 floods, which lasted for around six months.
Superstorm Sandy hit New York on Oct. 29, 2012, reportedly claiming 285 lives, with damage estimated at US$71 billion. The Bangkok floods, which occurred from July 2011 to January 2012, left around 800 people dead and resulted in losses of $45.7 billion.
Meanwhile, Jakarta’s January flooding left 14 people dead and forced more than 38,000 people to evacuate to higher ground, with estimated losses of Rp 20 trillion ($2 billion).
In a bid for Jakarta to improve its infrastructure and become more resilient, it will need advanced technology, making all systems inter-connectable with one another, to address the city’s problems in a more holistic way.
“You need to start with better [urban] planning and that means engaging technology in this planning,” Germany-based technology solutions provider Siemens CEO for infrastructure and cities Roland Busch recently told reporters invited to a press conference in New York City.
He said investing in such systems and infrastructure would be very expensive “if a city wants to be more resilient”, but a city need only invest at an optimum point.
“It’s again about competition. If you’re not growing like companies, you’ll have a huge problem,” said Busch, adding that cities might want to engage the private sector in a public-private partnership scheme to address financial problems.
A “healthy” city that grew sustainably would attract jobs and create family welfare, he said.
Responding to the huge investment needed to create a resilient city, Regional Plan Association executive director Thomas Wright said it would be more economical to start investing now rather than dealing with the damage later.
“You ought to start investing sooner and incrementally because otherwise it’s going to be much, much more expensive,” said Wright, who also attended the press conference.
The Jakarta administration, together with the central government, has planned a number of flood-mitigation efforts, including rehabilitation of rivers and the construction of giant sea walls on the northern coast, water reservoirs, floodways and multi-purpose deep tunnels.
Trisakti University urban planner Nirwono Yoga said Jakarta’s policymakers should start thinking of how to incorporate climate change responses in their urban planning policies.
“Jakarta is prone to flooding during the rainy season and water shortages during the dry season,” he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
“So, what the administration needs to do is catch as much water as possible during the rainy season by channeling water to ponds and reservoirs and creating more green spaces, rather than letting it flow immediately to the sea,” he said, adding that the construction of deep tunnels and floodways was counterproductive.
He also urged the administration to stop issuing permits for the construction of commercial buildings, like apartments and shopping malls, to allow for more green space.
In addition, he highlighted the importance of limiting the use of private vehicles and expanding mass transportation to improve the quality of Jakarta’s air.
Traffic has been a major headache for Jakartans, with experts estimating losses of Rp 186 billion daily.
The administration is working on a mass rapid transit system and will soon resume a long-stalled monorail project, while considering implementing an “even-odd” license plate policy for alternate days, to help overcome traffic problems.