From The Jakarta Globe
Out of agony of living in Jakarta, individuals unite into neighbourhoods to fight the governement and take initiatives to improve their social and physical environments.
Last sunny Saturday, I visited a community group “Pondok Indah Green Community”. Its members did not know each other until the plan to build busway lane through their neighbourhood was revealed a few years ago. Their protest managed to save trees and what not. Pondok Indah Green Community was formed afterwards to think and act more deeply about improving this neighbourhood. They rediscovered their many parks, and decided that they should make more use of it. For about a year they have produced a Green Map and are preparing on its second edition as well as a little book about birds there—they have completed surveying 28 bird species in the hood! They are currently working with Pondok Indah developer to build bike lanes and related facilities, and just launched a design competition for one of their parks. They are working together with Bandung’s Greeneration to initiate community-based garbage separation and composting. Because of all these they have been meeting regularly, forming a truly networked neighbourhood wherein people get to know, and actually work with, each other. They also recently won a grant from the Ministry of Public Works, through a competition named “Citizens Initiatives for Sustainable City,” to carry on with their activities.
A few days before, I accompanied another community to meet the mayor of West Jakarta, to ask for follow-up to their complaint that they had filed last year about the drainage situation in their neighbourood. After much hesitation and debates, more than 100 families eventually dared themselves to sign the complaint letter. Their neighbourhod has been experiencing inundation with every heavy rain, after the developer violated the city’s block plan for that area, and practically blocked its drainage ‘s outlet. Again, it is because of this agony that they get to know each other and work together. It is also apparent that the mayor’s office would not have known of this misconduct by the developer if not for their filed complaint.
The agony of living in many Indonesian cities—Jakarta, Makassar, Surabaya, and many others—have recently made their inhabitants more aware of their rights to better cities, as well as their capacity to do-it-themselves. They are also comparing their cities. They are aware of cities that are getting better, and those that are not. They know that it is not a destiny to have a bad city. They know that the city is for them to act upon. Indeed, what is a city if not (for) us. It seems to me that governments need to think of them as solutions instead of trouble makers, and should make available ways to channel their energy and creativity.