Jakarta. A conference of city officials in the Asia-Europe Meeting ended on Friday in Jakarta with a discussion of the various initiatives taken by cities toward sustainable urban development.
Ryuichi Kohama, director of city diplomacy for international affairs for the Tokyo metropolitan administration, said at the close of the ASEM members’ meeting that the limited green space in the Japanese capital had prompted several initiatives such as planting gardens in schoolyards and on top of buildings.
“We also have an ongoing reclamation project, where we dispose of waste in the sea and plant it to increase the number of green areas,” he said.
Paula Verhoeven, climate director for the Dutch city of Rotterdam, said her city and Jakarta shared a similar topography and challenges from climate change.
“We’re not sinking as much as Jakarta, but since Rotterdam is already 6 meters below sea level, every centimeter counts,” she said. “You can’t prevent it, but you can anticipate what’s coming.”
Land subsidence in the Indonesian capital has been a growing problem in recent years, particularly along the northern coast, which has experienced more frequent tidal flooding.
The phenomenon is blamed on the unsustainable drawing of groundwater as well as the development of commercial and residential properties.
Verhoeven also said Rotterdam had for the past two years shared with Jakarta ideas on dredging, flood management and how to integrate urban planning with water management.
“Jakarta and Rotterdam are both delta cities that lie in lowland areas,” she said.
“We’re at the end of one river or more, and this brings a special situation for flood management, because water doesn’t only come from the rain but also the city.”
She added the effects of climate change in Rotterdam were similar to those in Jakarta: increased precipitation and river discharge, which was worsened by land subsidence.
Verhoeven said her city was encouraging residents to build “green squares” on the roofs of their homes to catch excess rainwater there.
“Since the beginning of 2009 we’ve offered a 30 euro subsidy per square meter of the green squares,” she said.
“We’re also trying to look for innovations such as a multipurpose square or plaza where people can hang out, but that can also serve as a temporary water basin during heavy rains,” Verhoeven said.
She also called on Jakarta residents and officials to adopt a long-term views.
“When you wait until you have a huge problem, it will be more expensive to solve,” she said.
“Try making flexible plans for 50 years that can be adjusted. Then you can evaluate and adjust the plan every year.”
Verhoeven added Rotterdam could learn from Jakarta about how to include community groups in city-sponsored environmental programs.
“Jakarta has strong communities, and we would like to have more participation from our citizens,” she said.