“For many years the government has been trying to evict us, but somehow it never happened,” Kurdi Kurniawan, 58, told the Jakarta Globe.
Kurdi is one of the hundreds of thousands of people living on the banks of Jakarta’s Ciliwung River, who are often blamed for the waste clogging the waterway.
These people — around 34,000 families — are being targeted for relocation, a result of a government program to revitalize a 19-kilometer stretch of the river that is notorious for its stench and dark color.
The program, set to cost at least Rp 600 billion ($63 million), will be financed by the central and Jakarta governments.
“My parents have lived here since before I was born,” Kurdi said. “After I got married, I bought my own place, paying the previous owner Rp 4 million back in 1988.”
According to the Environment Ministry, at least 80 percent of the pollution in the river can be traced back to household waste, from liquids to plastic trash. Passing through 11 urban wards, the river is a dumping site for 400,000 cubic meters of waste every day.
Only 2 percent of the original riverbank remains intact while the rest has been taken over by slum dwellings because of high population growth.
Kurdi said he was aware of the “waste problems” he and his neighbors in Bukit Duri, South Jakarta, are causing, but refused to take all the responsibility.
“We have no other way to dispose of our waste. No garbage collector passes this way, and there is no nearby waste facility either,” he said.
In 2008, the neighborhood was part of an Environment Ministry waste management program, said Abdul Muis, a local youth activist from Sanggar Ciliwung.
“We had recycling programs, organic waste management and houses also pooled money in order to pay for garbage men to collect our waste and deliver it to a landfill in Tebet,” he said.
But it only lasted for a year, he said. When the government ended the program, people resorted back to flinging waste through their back doors and windows.
“First we found out that the garbage men we paid started to dump the waste they collected in the river, then people started to complain about the monthly fee that they had to pay,” Abdul said. The garbage collection fee was Rp 3,000 per household per month.
Even though Kurdi does not have a land certificate for the five-by-six square-meter home he owns, he said he still had to pay land taxes.
“I also have to pay for electricity and water, and of course I am a legitimate Jakarta citizen since I have a Jakarta ID,” he said.
“It’s not that we don’t want to move, but they better provide us with some compensation so that we can continue our lives.”
Now the government is trying again to clean up the area.
According to Hermono Sigit, the assistant deputy for river and lake degradation at the Environment Ministry, his ministry and the Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare are working on a decree for the president regarding the management of the Ciliwung River.
The work began in 2009 but has been delayed for “administrative” reasons.
“The cabinet secretary asked us to combine the decree with another draft from the Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare,” Hermono told the Globe.
“However we disagree, because our decree takes a more macro perspective than the Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare’s draft,” which he says only regulates the relocation of people living on the banks of the Ciliwung.
The Environment Ministry’s decree plans to include land acquisition regulations for river revitalization. It would also provide a legal basis for the local administration to clear river banks of privately owned structures, including homes.
For this, Jakarta has requested the assistance of the World Bank to create a resettlement plan, based on the bank’s own Resettlement Policy Framework.
“We oblige the projects that we finance to follow this framework, and if our client wants to use it for their own, then we of course encourage them,” said Fook Chuan Eng, the World Bank’s senior water and sanitation specialist for Indonesia.
The World Bank currently provides a $140 million loan for a waterway rehabilitation project, called the Jakarta Urban Flood Mitigation Project. It targets 11 major floodways and canals in the city, including parts of the Ciliwung River outside the government’s own Ciliwung revitalization project.
It took Jakarta and the World Bank two years to finalize the resettlement plan in late 2010. The plan requires the government to abide by certain conditions before relocating. For example, the government has to first consult with residents and find alternatives other than relocation before finally providing them an option to relocate.
Jakarta can also seek central government cooperation, and the task of finding resettlement locations falls to the Ministry of Public Housing, which deputy minister Pangihutan Marpaung said was no easy feat.
The first obstacle to finding a suitable location is that resettlement should not be too far from the original location.
“Vertical residential [apartments] was the obvious choice since it maximizes land use,” Pangihutan said.
But further obstacles quickly became apparent.
“Of the seven proposed locations, only one was approved by the Jakarta administration,” Pangihutan said. The proposed locations, he added, were either owned by the provincial government or the local army command.
“The chosen location was a military complex in Manggarai, East Jakarta,” he said.
But the army only agreed to allow housing on seven hectares out of the 23 sought, which could have accommodated 44 apartment towers.
In July, the ministry cut the number of families to be relocated from more than 30,000 to just 7,000, focusing on three areas: Kampung Pulo, Kebon Baru and Kalibata, in East and South Jakarta.
A further obstacle is that some of the army land is already being used as a residential complex, forcing the government to negotiate over space.
“There is a spatial planning problem, because the area is reserved for buildings under 12 stories, half that planned for the apartments,” Pangihutan said.
“Most of the people here are either street vendors or run small businesses from their homes. If we have to live in apartments, I can’t imagine how it would work with our businesses,” Kurdi said.
“In addition to that, with most of us likely out of work, we will need to think about the rent.”
Kurdi also complained that living in subsidized apartments would make residents feel like they were living in a pigeon hole.
Another resident, Masikin, 45, who sells fried rice and sometimes ketoprak from his food cart, voiced a similar complaint.
“My customers are people from this neighborhood, and I also sometimes go to a school nearby,” he said.
“If there is no other option, maybe I will consider moving, as long as I don’t get a high floor.”
Dian Tri Irawati, from the Rujak Urban Center Studies, said that relocating people was a big challenge.
“People will lose their jobs, their long-established social networks will be damaged and there will be other psychological impacts,” she said.
Edi Saidi, a spokesman for the Urban Poor Consortium, said the government’s approach was inequitable.
“Why can’t they develop a system that lets people living on river banks take care of their environment?”