Sat, 15 Jan 2000

Construction begins on airport toll road canal

JAKARTA (JP): The City Public Works Agency has started constructing a canal along both sides of the 1.5 kilometer inundated part of the Soedyatmo toll road which links Soekarno- Hatta Airport with the city, an official said on Friday.

"We started building the canal earlier this month. Each canal will be three meters deep and six meters wide," head of the agency, Fadly Khatib, told The Jakarta Post.

According to Fadly, the depth of the existing canal was only 1.5 meters from the road surface and was quite low.

He, however, didn't mention the maximum capacity of the canal as it would depend on the level of water.

"The capacity will fully rely on the water pumps stationed at the canal to pump water to the nearby Kamal river," he said.

But the canal, calculating simply, should be able to retain up to 27,000 cubic meters of water.

"Currently, there are 28 water pumps working at the site. Of that number, 16 are provided by the toll road operator PT Jasa Marga and 12 from our agency as an emergency action to drain the floods," he said.

Each pump was able to draw four cubic meters of water per second, he added.

The toll road, the main access to the airport from the city, hit the headlines in December as the ongoing rainy season, along with a monsoon in the area late last month, caused part of the road to become flooded, to over one meter high, for about a week.

The flood at the airport toll road severely tarnished the image of the country due to scores of delays of domestic and international flights as passengers, airplane crew and airport workers failed to reach the airport on time.

It also caused heavy traffic congestion on the narrow alternative roads to the international airport.

According to Fadly, the current works are the first stage of the project and will cost around Rp 250 million (US$34,700).

After a recent short pause, due to the Idul Fitri holiday, the first-stage project is expected to be completed by the end of March.

"The construction of the canal (along the other sections of the road) will be continued with funds from the next budget," he said.

He said the canal, connecting the Kamal and Tunjungan rivers, which empty into Jakarta Bay, had been determined by his agency to be a long-term solution for any flood threats at the toll road in the future.

"The city administration, central government and PT Jasa Marga have also planned to immediately normalize the Tunjungan river," he said.

The river, he said, would be soon widened to 35 meters and equipped with water gates and pumps.

Earlier, on Dec. 29 last year, State Minister of Public Works Roziq Boediono Soetjipto, after visiting the inundated site, said his office would propose the central government build an alternative road to the airport.

"It might take the form of an elevated road stretching from the flooded part of the toll road," he said.

The minister's deputy for regional infrastructure, Asrap Hadiroso, said the elevated road would be 2.5 kilometers long and cost some Rp 25 billion per kilometer.

The toll road was once located in a swampy area, home to some 1,150 hectares of mangrove forest.

Developer PT Mandara Permai, owned by tycoons Ciputra and Sudwikatmono, allegedly cut down the forest to build the current existing Pantai Indah Kapuk (PIK) residential area.

But Roziq and his staff insisted that the flood at the toll road had something to do with the poor construction of parts of the toll road.

"I've been told that the toll road (at the inundated spots) has gradually subsided by some 80 centimeters since it was constructed (in 1984)," he said.

The reason for the subsidence, according to Roziq, was because the toll road had been hastily constructed to catch up with the airport's construction schedule.

The contractors were ordered to speed up the toll road construction, as by late 1984 the airport had already been built, he said.

Separately, Deputy Governor for Development Affairs Budihardjo Sukmadi also said the residential area had nothing to do with the floods or cutting down of the mangrove forest.

"We already have aerial photographic proof of the area showing the mangrove forest was not located in the PIK area," he said after a meeting with the developer last Friday.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), however, argued on Friday that the residential area played a major role in causing the floods.

"Development in the former mangrove forest has reduced its water catchment capacity from some 9 million cubic meters to just one-third," said WALHI executive Ahmad Safrudin in a statement. (05)