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Jakarta Post

Weekly 5: Arguments for, against reclamation

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Fri, November 6, 2015   /  03:41 pm
Weekly 5: Arguments for, against reclamation

Since it was initiated in 1995, the reclamation project of building 17 artificial islets in Jakarta Bay has been receiving mixed reactions from the public. Residents who are against the project argue that it will bring no benefit for the greater public, while Jakarta will have to pay a big environmental cost. However, reclamation proponents, the Jakarta administration and Governor Basuki '€œAhok'€ Tjahaja Purnama have their own arguments. Here are five reasons and five comments:

Food supply

Ahok has told the press that land reclamation is must around the world in order to maintain the global food supply. '€œIf we do not reclaim the land, around 45 million people will be starving thousands of years later as our land cannot produce enough food,'€ he said, as quoted by kompas.com.

However, according to the Jakarta Development Planning Board (Bappeda), the 17 islets will be divided into three designations: residential and recreational, centers of international service, trading and tourism, and centers of ports and logistics.

Bappeda head Tuty Kusumawati has said that the city administration would decrease the quota of open green space (RTH) on three islets dedicated for ports from an initial 30 percent to only 5 percent.

Water purification

According to the governor, the environmental condition of Jakarta Bay is already so poor that it needs reclamation.

He said the city would later plant trees on the islands to rehabilitate the environment.

'€œAfter reclaiming the land, we will plant trees. The pollution will be sucked up by the trees. There is no other way to clean the sea besides reclamation,'€ he said.

Bandung Technology Institute'€™s (ITB) Coastal Technical Expertise Group leader Muslim Muin said that there was no reclamation project in the world that was used to clean polluted water.

'€œIt does not make sense. The right way to clean polluted water is by cleaning the source of the pollution,'€ he said.

Muslim said that to clean the pollutants that had become sediment, they should be dredged and treated. '€œWe cannot just layer it with dirt,'€ he said.

Boosting economy

Looking at the grand plan of the reclamation project, the ultimate reason for the project is to boost the economy as it creates new spaces for commercial activities in decaying North Jakarta.

The city administration said that it can create thousands of job opportunities for Jakartans. A water specialist who initiated the project years ago, Firdaus Ali, said that the commercial activities on the islets would generate a large tax income for the city administration. '€œThe money can be used to revitalize the areas around the islets,'€ he said.

Aside from the plan to create new business hubs and jobs, the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen'€™s Union (KNTI) estimated that 16,000 families of fishermen who currently live in Jakarta Bay will potentially lose their incomes because they will not have the financial capacity to sail further north to get fish.

Waterfront city

The bylaw draft of the spatial planning of the North Jakarta coastal area says that the construction of 17 islets is to develop a '€œwaterfront city'€ because the capital has been abandoning development in the coastal area, which has been environmentally degraded.

The chairman of the Association of Regional and Urban Planners (IAP), Bernardus Djonoputro, said that reclamation has to be an extension of the entire city, meaning it cannot be a separate, exclusive entity that serves only its own existence.

'€œIt has to have green areas and public transportation must have a route to the islets. It has to be an inclusive area and the area has to provide housing for all walks of life,'€ Bernie said. He said that the planning for the reclaimed islets has to be transparent and the state has to be present in the process. '€œThe reclamation has to give benefits to the whole of Jakarta, including to the vulnerable residents now residing along the northern coastal areas,'€ he said.

But what happens now, he said, with private developers controlling the planning and zoning, the islets would likely become another gated, exclusive community like the Pantai Mutiara and Pantai Indah Kapuk housing complexes.

Land shortage

The city administration has said that land shortage is one of the problems the reclamation would solve. Urban planning expert Suryono Herlambang of Tarumanagara University said that the essential question was: Land shortage for whom?

'€œIt is like the argument of the '€˜new city'€™ 25 years ago. The government opened a new suburbia to provide affordable housing, but it did not happen, right?'€ Herlambang said.

A price list document of Islet D of PT Kapuk Naga Indah shows that the lowest marketing price of a property there is more than Rp 30 million (US$2,100) per square meter.

'€œAffordable housing right now should be between Rp 5 million to Rp 10 million per square meter,'€ Herlambang said.

Herlambang said there was no indication that Jakarta suffered a land shortage for high-income housing.

Besides, he said, if Jakarta wants to open a new area, it has to halt the speed of development on the mainland. '€œBut it is not happening. The latest detailed planning for Jakarta shows that the city is raising the density of the buildings, which will put more burden on the city and worsen land subsidence,'€ Herlambang said.

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