Why do we need to redo Jakarta 2010-2030 Spatial Masterplan through a participatory process?

Also published in different editions in www.rujak.org and  the Jakarta Post.

Jakarta needs its people. That is the simple but fundamental argument to redo Jakarta 2010-2030 Spatial Masterplan through a participatory process. Jakarta needs its people to own the plan so that they will participate in implementing it willingly. Participation builds a strong link called “ownership” between making and implementing a plan. They can only do so if they participate in the making of basic strategic options and decisions. This means deployment of a true participatory process that goes beyond passive “consultative participation” where people are merely asked their opinions about options and decisions that have been made or predetermined by others, usually the bureaucrats and their consultants.

Judging from its content, the draft bylaws (RAPERDA) on the Spatial Masterplan Jakarta 2010-2030 clearly shows that Jakarta needs its people not only for their aspiration, but also for their inspiration, information, knowledge and know-how.

A coalition of citizens, just after a couple of weeks scrutinising the draft bylaws, easily discovered many disturbing mistakes, from repeated typo’s, misleading projection of population growth (as it is based on raw aggregated trend), to mis-use of floor area standards as land area standards. It is unbelievable that a capital of this great nation is taking so lightly and irresponsibly this rare opportunity of spatial masterplanning to reverse its downturn. Four other world cities are currently taking masterplanning process seriously as a one-time opportunity to fix their long outstanding problems as well as to respond to immediate future challenges such as climate change, sustainability and global competitiveness. They are Sydney, Melbourne, London and New York City, that have just completed its plan for 2030. Their qualities are by far incomparable to Jakarta’s. They are all participatory in process and the results are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound), which is not the case with Jakarta’s. New York City and Sydney employed the same Jan Gehls, a senior architect that in the past 40 years has been influential in the making of pedestrians- and cyclists-friendly Copenhagen.

The most primary of all, the “vision” of Jakarta, has been formulated as “a service city that is comfortable, prosperous and sustainable”. There is no record about how it was formulated and on what grounds, be it people’s aspiration or Jakarta factual potencials. Those words are heavily loaded, cannot be treated lightly, because they can mean different things to different people. For example, for many people, inner city toll roads are certainly not “sustainable”, and yet the government is going ahead with them. MRT, for which a corporation has been founded, is indicated differently vaquely in several versions of the draft bylaw, which had been revised at least 5 times in the last couple of weeks, with the early ones were not even dated properly. Visioning could have been a participatory process to forge concensus and ownership.

Our contemporary world is such that production of knowledge is no longer concentrated only in a handful of consultants and university professors. A staff in an international NGO, for example, can access and analyse the whole globally available knowledge, as much as a university professor can do.  A well-travelled business man would have known more cities in the world to compare with Jakarta than a buraucrat, even if he/she have gone for many wasteful “comparative study trips”.  It is truly amazing how the city’s authority does not want to care about the different imaginations the city’s population migh have, given the contemporary democratisation in knowledge production and critical analysis, and that all those need to be accomodated and negotiated during masterplanning process, not afterwards.

Jakarta Spatial Masterplan 2010-2030 is a long-term plan. It is a generation’s chance, only once in 20 years. It will outlive many politicians’s career. Therefore, they cannot just decide on it by themselves. They need to ask the people. In fact, if  “we cannot ask the people on the street”—as many bureaucrats, including the governor, have often said—we’d better not plan at all! It is impossible not to ask the population about choices that determine their and their children’s futures. It is a must, not an option. We should do our best to invent ways to conduct it properly. The fact that many bureaucrats and consultants are not used to it and do not have sufficient skills about it, does not justify negligence. Many citizens are willing to “help” the government to do that, because they really want to feel to own the plan and the city.

In fact, a structured participatory process is not really that difficult to conduct even at large scale planning such as for a metropolis like Jakarta.  There are techniques and technologies that can be used to design a structured and phased participatory process. Different forms of meetings –large and small focus groups discussions, opinion surveys, facilitated questionaires—can be employed to formulate and decide on differet levels of issues. It is not that “we just go out and ask the men on the street”.

In the 30 years of modern history of  city planning in Indonesia no city has really got better because of its plan . Most got worsed. Implementation is often blamed for the failure of planning, which is often defended by the expression that “the plan is fine, it is the implementation that is bad”. The truth is that a good plan should include a good workable implementation strategy. One cannot blame imlementation without blaming the planning approach, which has two basic faults. First, it has not been participatory enough to develop sense of ownership that would encourage popular support in implementation. Secondly it has never been SMART and transparant enough, which made it easy to corrupt.  These are all understandable under the New Order. But, should we not continue our reform movement to touch our city planning approach?

Obviously, the hardest and most bitter pill to swallow is that Jakarta can only reverse its downturning process if we change its planning approach. We are going nowhere with business-as-usual attitude, and without a courage to make fundamental changes in its planning approach. Indeed, a participatory process is a new way of building city. The old ways have failed, at least will not be able to respond properly to immediate and future problems. Jaime Lerner, a former mayor of Curitiba, knows that, and often said in different formulation, that buidling a city is building its society. We cannot just copy the result. We need to exercise a participatory process to come out with authentic solutions unique to Jakarta. Citizens are ready and aspiring to it. Why not the government? Where is the leadership?

By Marco Kusumawijaya and Elisa Sutanudjaja, editors of ww.rujak.org.

This entry was posted in Jakarta, Urban Development, Urban Planning. Bookmark the permalink.

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