The water equation in Jakarta






Despite having enough ressources, Indonesia is suffering a water crisis.


Water pollution is a big issue as inhabitants use the rivers as a bin.


There have been evictions as part of the "flood prevention" program.


Public and private sector are struggling for control on water supply.




Facts on the Indonesian water crisis

Indonesia enjoys 21% of the total freshwater available in the Asia - Pacific region, 6% of the world’s water. This is more than eno to supply only 6% of the population. The water is also untransportable due to Indonesia’s geography.

The island of Java is the best example of the Indonesian water crisis: the water demand reached 164.672 million cubic meters in 2015, while the availability was only 30.569 cubic meters. If the resources were equally distributed, that would mean 203 liters per inhabitant per year. This would mean that one Java inhabitant would only have 0,5 liters per day. Just for surviving, humans need to drink around 2 liters of water per day. The amount of water for cooking and washing the dishes is 3 liters per day, for the basic hygiene 2 liters.

The quality of the water is also a problem in Indonesia: in 2015, only 22% of the population had access to piped water, and 13% of the population (32 million Indonesians) had no access to clean water sources. The surface water is usually highly polluted and big cities like Jakarta usually have to make use of ground water (even though it is usually polluted as well). 80% of the surface and ground water in Indonesia is used for irrigation, and industry is an important user of it. The industry, though is not equally distributed across the country, which makes the water crisis worse.






“People still put rubbish in the river because they don’t have to pay,” says Sri Tantri Arundhati, Indonesia’s director of climate change adaptation.




Water pollution and garbage disposal

One of the main problems of the water crisis is the high pollution of the water. The Cityrum river, which is one of the 13 rivers that serves Jakarta, has been labeled the dirtiest river in the world. The problem in the capital is much worse anywhere else in the country, mostly due to the rapid urbanization Jakarta had in the last years: in 20 years, the city has quadrupled its size, from 2 million inhabitants in 1975 to 9,1 million in 1995. Much of this expansion, however, has occurred in the form of “Kampungs’’, or villages, which are usually informal settlements.



The map shows that many kampungs are located around rivers, and this is a huge problem as fas as pollution is concerned: most inhabitants are not taught that water is other than garbage dump and just throw their garbage into the water as it costs less than using the city beans. Jakarta’s inhabitants produce 6.300 tons of garbage per day, of which only 5% is recycled. This garbage usually ends up on riverbanks and canals and causes additional flooding and pollution, also creating health problems.




Another issue is that there is a really poor municipal sewage system in Jakarta which usually doesn’t reach the kampungs. As a consequence, kampung inhabitants’ only sewage system is a septic tank (which is sometimes just a hole with layers of coral rock and ijuk fiber), which really offers close to no sewage and ends up polluting the ground water as well. Nowadays even 80% of the ground water is polluted in Jakarta.

The garbage does not only pollute the rivers of Jakarta to a large extent, but it also clogs its waterways. Refrigerators, televisions, mattresses, furniture and even human corpses - missing victims of flash floods - are only some of the things that can be found in the water. Some people even make a living out of it and spend their days looking for valuable goods among the trash.



The floods have become part of the slums inhabitants every day life



The problem of floods

Jakarta is prone to flooding due to its topography, as it lies along the Java Sea at the end of a river delta. But, because of the aforementioned water pollution and riverbank communities, floods in the capital of Indonesia happen at least once a year, and major floods every five years or so.This is the trend since the mid-1990s: in 2002, 60 people were killed and 350.000 displaced ; in 2007, 52 people died and 450.000 had to leave their homes; and in 2013, a dike in the West Flood Canal collapsed, causing the whole city center to flood and killing 46 people.




Since 1970, there has not been a proper dredging or waterway in the city, and this wasn’t even an issue for the Jakarta government until 2010. Besides, the rapid growth of Jakarta has led to an unchecked development: this means that retention ponds and swamplands, which absorb the water and prevent floods, have been paved over to build shopping malls and apartment blocks on them. Riverbank kampungs also play an important role: they prevent the river from broadening during the wet season, which leads to kampungs being the most harmed when floods come; and their inhabitants pollute the rivers of Jakarta, having as a consequence that nowadays only 20% of sewage drains work properly.



"Three fundamental problems underlying water privatisation in Jakarta are, as follows: governance problems, regulatory problems and technical performance problems. The governance problems include three aspects: legal problems, lack of tendering process, and lack of public involvement and transparency."



An illegal population evicted legally. Eviction. It's the word people are afraid of in Jakarta.

26% of Jakarta'surban population lives in slums and more than 5 million slum dweller in Greater Jakarta alone, according to the UN Human Settlements Program. The first problem is that slums are self-constructed, so there's a lack of basic amenities such as access to water, sanitation or electricity. The second problem is that slums are constructed illegally on state lands. This is creating hostil relationship between slum dwellers and authorithies. And the inhabitants don't want to invest in infrastructure because of the constant threat of demolition and eviction.




The government plan reconstruction or urbanisation project on these lands, such as The Ciliwung River restoration program under the Pubic Works and Public Housing Ministry, are the main causes of eviction. The slum inhabitants were immedialty asked to move. The slum's houses were considered to be the origin of the flood problem. The remaining non violent residents, were just moving from one house to another during the deconstruction. But it's not always non violent. In 2015, the governor forcelly evicted residents of the Kampung Pulo, wish led to a violent clash between inhabitants and the city officials. Bukt Uni was occupied by 379 families who clamed 460 plots of lands of the riverbanks. Finally, 314 families decided to move to al low cost rental appartment in Rawa Bebek in East Jakarta. But the others declined to move as they would only get a rental free of charge flat for the first three month and then pay a rental of 24 dollars per month.Finally, one part moved in Senen while the others in Bukit Duri and Kebon Pala. However the population will remember for ever that the president Jakowi promised he wouldn't evict them and would built housing for them.

On one hand, to solve the problem, the city has to do urban planning and ask them to move. For exemple, Jakarta asked the settlement to move back at least 20 feet from the riverbank, to built a fire truck road and a demarcation green space. In an other hand, it really damage the livelihoods and social fabric of the kampong, they lose their clientele, break the social networks and mutual support groups wich help residents to overcome daily financial struggles. At least, demolishing illegal slums would send a message against illegal habitation of land and would act as a disincentive for future squatters.



"Three fundamental problems underlying water privatisation in Jakarta are, as follows: governance problems, regulatory problems and technical performance problems. The governance problems include three aspects: legal problems, lack of tendering process, and lack of public involvement and transparency."
"Three fundamental problems underlying water privatisation in Jakarta are, as follows: governance problems, regulatory problems and technical performance problems. The governance problems include three aspects: legal problems, lack of tendering process, and lack of public involvement and transparency."



The impossible equation between private and public

Before 1998, the PAM Jaya water system belonged to the government. Now, the water system belongs to private companies, and it is divided into two services area: Thames Water Overseas covers the western sector whereas Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux covers the east one. The private sector was thought to have better managerial capacities, and to be financially and technologically stronger. But privatization has always been against the Indonesian Constitution. And now the situation is stuck: It would be too expensive for the government to buy it back and the private sectorWater provision in the slums are considered as socially feasible but not commercially profitable, so this population is totally excluded of the water system and organization.

Moreover, the government is always changing his mind about their outcome. International institutions such as the World Bank have also continuously encouraged ‘water reform’, which include privatization of water services. It is a struggle among actors to define the policy priorities on water.

Thus far, government responses to flooding lacks of pubic participation. There is no community empowerment that has beem developped in Jakarta's neighborhoods.

“A good place to see what's at stake is in north Jakarta, where a leaky concrete seawall is the only thing holding back the Java Sea from flooding almost half of the city. Even on a clear day, the seawall is just a few inches from overtopping. If this seawall breaks, you have three meters of water in this kampung area where nobody can swim.”

Consequences for the Kampungs and the need for solutions

The situation between the Government and private companies doesn't have an end in sight and the main damaged in this situation are Kampung inhabitants. As most of them are considered informal settlements, private companies have little interest in creating infrastructure to serve them with water. As a consequence, Kampungs are the main river polluter, leading to floods, which they suffer and get them evicted.

Kampung inhabitants need to create their own low-scale water infrastructure in order to have access to water, so they try to imitate the ''real'' infrastructure of the water suppliers. They rely on rudimentary practices, such as boiling water for cooking or using their typical bath Mandi in order to save water. However, the water is not properly filtered and this is easily seen by the grayish-yellowish color the rice gets when boiled. The bottled water is another big business in Kampungs: it is the only source of clean water for many people.

There are many NGOs (Unicef, Greenpeace...) trying to tackle this lack of infrastructure, which is the main issue for Kampung inhabitants. In face of the stuck situation regarding the ''official'' infrastructure, it is clear that Kampung inhabitants need to tackle the problem themselves, hopefully with the help of some external association which will provide them with the knowledge needed to carry out this difficult task.




The lack of infrastructure in Kampungs leads to pollution, floods and eventually eviction of its inhabitants. The situation between private and public seems an endless struggle, so it's high time some external agent took measures on this lack of infrastructure and created an informal water system in cooperation with the inhabitants.






References: to-shocks/ 


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