The Jakarta Post
The Public Works and Public Housing Ministry has revealed that at least 30 lakes and reservoirs in Greater Jakarta have been lost in the last 20 years, replaced by housing and commercial complexes, exacerbating the risk of flooding.
The ministry's Ciliwung-Cisadane Flood Control Office (BBWSCC) Operation and Maintenance Department head Gemala Susanti said recently that the number of reservoirs and lakes in Greater Jakarta had declined from 203 in the 1990s to 183 in 2014.
Gemala said the water reservoirs had been converted to other purposes. 'I found one area that used to be a lake and is now a provincial administration office,' she said, declining to mention the exact location.
Gemala gave another example of a private company that legally owned a lake, locally known as setu or situ, in South Tangerang with the land certificate issued by the National Land Agency (BPN).
'How the lake came to be owned by a private entity, I cannot answer that,' she said, adding that her office had tried to sue the company to get the land back but they lost as the certificate was legal.
She said she was grateful that the South Tangerang administration had found a way to prevent any physical construction in the area. 'The administration has pledged not to issue a building permit for the area,' she said.
Gemala said other reservoirs had been turned into housing complexes. 'The residents often complain that their areas are hit by floods. When we check, the area turns out to have been a lake,' she said
The department head said her team tried to restore the reservoirs but it was a difficult task. 'We cannot find the exact location of most of them as they have been altered for other purposes,' she said.
Gemala said her office was now trying to normalize and maintain the remaining lakes and reservoirs, so they would not be abandoned and eventually used by residents or private entities for commercial purposes that ultimately damaged the environment. 'Problems in the reservoirs include sedimentation and broken banks,' she said.
She said Rp 126 billion (US$8.56 billion) had been allocated to revitalize four lakes ' Cimanggis and Cilala, Cikaret in Cibinong, Kebantenan and Gedong, all in Bogor regency. 'We've also allocated Rp 61 billion to maintain 130 natural reservoirs,' she said.
Gemala said that in order to prevent illegal settlements encroaching on the lakes, her department usually built a jogging track. 'Ideally, we cannot build any permanent constructions within 50 meters of the reservoirs. However, we need to ensure that the banks are strong and complete,' she said.
Anthropologist Herry 'Yoga' Yogaswara said that besides poor law enforcement, the main factor behind the degradation of bodies of water was the increasing distance between people and nature.
'People do not have a sense of belonging to their surroundings anymore. They also do not have a collective memory of how the lake, for example, influences their lives. Hence, when something happens to the lake like pollution or being built upon, they do not care,' he said.