Sun, 05 Jan 2003

Ciputat Market faces uncertain future

Sari P. Setiogi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

One of the most popular traditional markets in the Greater Jakarta area is Ciputat Market. But looking at its present condition, people may doubt whether the market -- which was established in 1932 by the Dutch colonial government -- will survive for much longer.

This traditional market, where activities go on for almost 24 hours a day, has a trademark: It is always wet and muddy, no matter the season, so most vendors and regular buyers there wear rubber boots so they can walk around freely.

It did not take me long to get soaked in ankle-deep water and mud. Some rudimentary bridges were set up here and there as a way for those who wanted to walk across puddles, made simply from pieces of thin wood panels or plywood. Some had already sunk into the mud.

I felt lucky when I saw a relatively dry surface -- at least it was only muddy. But then I realized it was just the beginning: A flattened carcass of a rat lay on the ground before me. If I had not been looking, I might have stepped on it since it had almost become as one with the muddy ground. I could only sigh.

Garbage piled up on sidewalks, inviting flies, cockroaches and rats to hang around. Some more dead rats could be found strewn along the 15-meter market.

And don't ask about the smell! The stench of rotten vegetables, fruits and decomposed rodents are never friendly to our noses.

Sudanang Dananjaya, a resident of Ciputat since 1985 and the developer of the Ciputat community website, (meaning "love Ciputat"), questioned the hygiene of the produce sold at Ciputat Market.

"The vendors just put their goods on the dirty, muddy ground. Flies, mosquitoes and dust may perch on them. I think that even washing them would not be enough.

"As an alternative, I prefer to shop at the minimarket nearby, like Indomart. I wish they would also sell vegetables and fruits there," he said.

"For my family's daily needs, I buy vegetables and fruits at a stall in my neighborhood. Of course, the prices might be twice as high, but it is a lot better than going to Ciputat Market," he sighed.

"I go there only if I am going to prepare food for special occasions, like parties, and need to buy all sorts of goods in bulk."

The market's condition and hygiene are not the only issues. During the day, the problem is worsened by the chaotic traffic. Public transportation vehicles like mikrolet (public minivan) and ojek (motorcycle taxis) never operate in a disciplined manner, stopping for passengers anywhere they like. It is an everyday phenomenon that only one lane out of the four-lane Jl. Dewi Sartika can be used by other motorists as a result of the lack of discipline in both drivers and passengers.

"The rubbish thrown on the sidewalks also contributes to the chaotic traffic. Piles of coconut fiber or decomposed fruits and vegetables force people to walk in the road. Even the vendors occupy parts of the road to display their goods there," said Effendi Yahya, an executive who passes the street everyday.

"I have to spend at least one hour passing this area during rush hour," he said.

Sudanang, whose office is on Jl. Jend. Gatot Subroto, South Jakarta, has the same complaint. "I have to leave home soon after the morning prayer (about 5 a.m.) to go to the office. Any later than that, I will be late because of the traffic through Ciputat."

Hermanto Wijaya, whose relative owns a shop at Ciputat Market, gave a good explanation as to why the vendors spilled out into the street.

"After the fire there in 1997, the traditional vendors were relocated to the basement of the new building, which was very inhumane. It was smelly and muddy, while the excessive number of vendors made it stuffy, and there was no ventilation to bring in fresh air.

"Later, hardly any shoppers -- mostly housewives -- were willing to go there. So the vendors moved out onto the street."

Today, there are more than a hundred vendors along Jl. Dewi Sartika. They sell chicken, vegetables and fruits, and use the sidewalk for their businesses, crowding the pathway originally built for pedestrians.

A few days after the Idul Fitri holidays, the Ciputat district administration built 1.5-meter-high fences along the sidewalks of Jl. Dewi Sartika.

"We planned to put the vendors in order. Vendors are allowed to sell their wares only behind the fences. Hopefully, they will not go out onto the street like before," said Tatang, an officer from the Ciputat district administration.

Chaerul, a plastic bag vendor in Ciputat and also a vendor coordinator, said he heard that a census for vendors would be conducted and a better place for them would be built soon.

"I heard that the Ciputat district administration will build 1.5-square-meters stalls with awnings. We have to pay about Rp 5 million (US$560) for that but they said they would accept a credit payment scheme," he said.

"We expect this to become a reality shortly before the grand opening of the Ramayana store," said Chaerul, pointing to a brand new department store at the junction.

Tatang, however, refused to comment on this when asked for his opinion.

Raids have been carried out many times to drive the vendors away from the area, but experience shows that they always come back within a week or two.

As Sudanang says, building fences or raiding vendors will not solve the problem at Ciputat Market. "These are only temporary and sporadic solutions. It would be better if the Ciputat district administration renovates the market structure for the traditional vendors, and this time, enforce cleanliness."

"Maybe the administration should learn from what has been done at Ciledug Market. A similar situation existed there, but it is now a lot better," said Evita Bahrul, a housewife who used to shop at Ciputat Market, but switched to nearby supermarkets for her family's shopping needs.

Observing conditions at Ciputat Market and its surroundings, it is not improbable that the market will soon become history. And if the government cannot make any effective improvements to the market, people will switch to modern markets, like supermarkets or minimarkets.

One-stop hypermarkets like Makro and Carrefour are easily accessible in the neighborhood. Aside from shopping, they also offer a nice option for a family outing in a clean, comfortable and safe environment with better facilities. Minimarkets, like Indomart or traditional vegetable and fruit stands, also offer daily goods to residents at reasonable prices.

Traditional markets, like the one in Ciputat, usually offer an interesting outing and a special experience for both buyers and vendors in a communal atmosphere. People there have a tighter social bond, as compared to the more individualistic relationships at modern markets.

In some cases, traditional markets have become fascinating tourist destinations, like Klewer Market in Surakarta, Central Java, and Beringharjo Market in Yogyakarta.

In much the same way, Ciputat Market could be a valuable city heritage in the midst of a rapid development towards all things modern. The local administration soon needs to decide whether to keep the market alive or to just let it die and become a memory of one of the most popular traditional markets in Greater Jakarta.