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The Problem of Slums: Jakarta, Indonesia

Username By Barrie | December 26th, 2006 | Comments No Comments

Every major city throughout the world has slums, places where the poor people gather to live, Jakarta has many areas and solving the problem without creating American-style ghettos is fast becoming a headache for administrators.

Brilliant JP journalist Anissa S. Febrina explores the problem faced by Jakarta’s administration.

Jakarta looks at the problem of slums

Just across from fancy, Mediterranean-style shop houses in South Jakarta stands a kampong where food vendor Djamhani’s family of five live cramped together in a 6-square-meter room.

Such conditions are so common in Jakarta that people frequently forget the poor living conditions experienced by the 5.4 million people who live in the city’s kampongs and slums.

Saying that Jakarta administration has done nothing to help them is not entirely correct, as a number of kampong improvement projects have been undertaken over the last few years.

But, the rapid growth of the city’s slums has clearly outpaced the administration’s efforts.

Starting next year, the Jakarta administration plans to build more than 13,000 low-cost apartments, in addition to the 20,000 units that have been constructed to date.

Some 3,780 of the new apartments will be built in Marunda, North Jakarta, 1,700 in Rawa Bebek subdistrict, East Jakarta, 2,000 in Semanan, West Jakarta, and another 6,400 in Kedoya, also in West Jakarta.

But, experience teaches us that relocating people from the slums is not an easy task, partly because kampong people are not accustomed to high-rise living - at least not yet.

However, there are many other steps that the administration could take to resolve the Jakarta slum problem.

The State Ministry for Public Housing has been mulling the idea of upgrading the slums through financing support schemes and legalizing the land ownership of the slum dwellers, whom the administration often labels squatters.

A report from the Jakarta Provincial Development Board revealed that around 70 percent of the residences in the city are self-built, of which some 50 percent - those in the slums - are unfit for human habitation.

According to Yusuf Yuniarto, the assistant deputy to the state minister, this was the result of lack of money, lack of access to resources and lack of knowledge about how to build habitable dwellings.

Furthermore, squatters, who mostly work in the informal sector, lack access to formal funding sources.

In the light of these problems, the state ministry has highlighted the need to upscale a microfinance project that was first tried out in Central Java.

The universities could contribute by educating people about proper construction techniques, grassroots institutions, like the mosque-based Baaitul Maal, could help channel the money, while private-sector firms could orientate their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs toward provide proper housing for the poor.

Successful kampong upgrading programs initiated by a number of non-governmental organizations can be seen in North Jakarta’s Kampung Muara.

The pigeon-hole houses there look brighter as each homeowner strives to keep the kampong clean and green.

The lack of available space for new housing could also be overcome by indentifying land donated for religious purposes, known locally as tanah wakaf, which has not yet been developed.

While such land is normally used to build mosques or cemeteries, urban planners argue that it should also be used for housing as this is more pressing.

While relocating squatters into blocks of low-cost apartments runs the risk of creating ghettos, letting the poor upgrade their living conditions will allow more room for gradual change.

Anissa S. Febrina

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