Jakarta going down drain
The recent floods have laid bare numerous problems in the planning and management of Jakarta, and hopefully also have taught us many lessons. One fact clearly worth recording is that Greater Jakarta lacks an adequate and proper drainage system.
Those drainage systems that do exist in both residential areas, including exclusive housing complexes, and public places are clearly not up to the task of channeling water during big storms.
Stroll along a major thoroughfare in any large city in Europe or the U.S., and you can see just how large and clean the underground drainage system is; large enough, in fact, for a person to walk through.
Jakarta, with a population of at least 10 million, does not have large, properly integrated drains. The result, as we have all seen this past week, is flooding.
The best drainage systems are said to be those around the Presidential Palace, including along Jl. Merdeka Utara, Jl. Majapahit, Jl. Veteran and Jl. Juanda, which were built during the Dutch colonial era. However, these areas were inundated when the city was flooded in 2002, because of the poor maintenance of connecting drains.
Though parts of the city flood whenever there is a major rainstorm, there has been no effort on the part of the administration or residents to fix Jakarta’s drainage system.
The numerous wires and pipes criss-crossing the drains under the main thoroughfare of Jl. Thamrin have made them more vulnerable to clogs. This is just one example of the administration’s lack of attention to the drainage system.
Given the many waterways and drains that become clogged during rainy days, it is clear the drainage systems in Jakarta’s five mayoralties are poorly integrated. And now, with Jakarta practically a megacity, with areas of West Jakarta and Banten, integrated drainage systems are even more crucial.
However, it is doubtful that the administrations of Depok, Tangerang, Bogor and Bekasi consult the Jakarta administration on the issue of integrated drainage systems when they undertake big new projects, like the building of malls or housing complexes and industrial estates.
But Jakarta alone cannot create an integrated drainage system among it, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi (Jabodetabek). In a time when coordination has become a rarity in government, the Jakarta administration must work with neighboring administrations to deal with this issue.
For these administrations, it is clear that developers must be required to build proper drainage systems before new malls and housing complexes are built.
The next step would then be to ensure developers live up to this requirement, which is not often the case. Officials in charge of issuing permits to developers have been known to look the other way for a price. Clearly, the administration must improve its control system.
Another necessary step is involving the public in keeping drains and waterways clear. The most obvious area that needs addressing is to stop people from dumping garbage into waterways, clogging the city’s sluice gates.
The city ordinance prohibiting people from littering has not worked, to say the least. Enforcement of the ordinance has been limp, with no one we have heard of ever being fined for littering.
With the worst of the floods having hopefully passed, the city administration must find a way to manage Jakarta’s waterways.
A review of the existing drainage system is necessary, despite the fact that the project will be costly. Also, a law needs to be issued requiring developers to establish appropriate drainage systems before they are issued permits to build malls or housing and industrial complexes.
Residents who dump garbage into waterways must be punished, and each mayoralty must undertake regular controls on their drainage systems. Protecting Jakarta from flood will require an all-out national effort, and a proper drainage system is just one part of this effort.