Tue, 08 Jul 2003

Jakarta dreams of using rivers for traffics

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Jakarta administration hopes to make use of the city's rivers as part of an integrated transportation system for the capital.

Plans for using the rivers as part of the city's transportation system are included in a draft bylaw on an integrated transportation system for Jakarta, which is being discussed by the City Council and relevant agencies in the administration.

The administration would begin the experiment with a pilot project on the Ciliwung River, which flows from Pasar Baru in Central Jakarta to Ancol in North Jakarta. During the Dutch colonial era this river was an important artery in the city.

The assistant to the city secretary for development affairs, Irzal Djamal, said on Monday the City Public Works Agency had been ordered to begin preparations for the project, including conducting a feasibility study to determine which rivers were suitable for transportation.

"We are not in a hurry (for the project). We believe the rivers in Jakarta have the potential to be developed into an alternative means of transportation in the city. We are very serious about developing this," said Irzal, who is in charge of developing the city's transportation concept.

Unlike in Singapore, where the rivers serve only as tourist attractions, Jakarta hopes to integrate its rivers into the city's overall transportation system.

Plans for river transportation are being discussed as the administration continues to seek solutions to the capital's transportation woes.

City Transportation Agency head Rustam Effendi said there were numerous large waterways in Jakarta that could be integrated into the transportation system, including the Cengkareng Drain, Cakung Drain and the West Flood Canal.

"The West Flood Canal will soon be combined with the East Flood Canal and it has the potential to serve as river transportation," he said on the sidelines of a hearing with the City Council to discuss the draft bylaw.

Other large rivers in the city include the Cipinang, Sunter, Buaran, Jati Kramat, Cakung, Angke, Pesanggrahan and Grogol.

The East Flood Canal development project -- which will cost Rp 4.124 trillion (US$503 million) and will be 23.5 kilometers in length -- will be inaugurated by President Megawati Soekarnoputri on July 10.

However, several analysts have already raised questions about the viability of the river transportation system.

Their pessimism is based on the condition of Jakarta's rivers, which have been shallowed and now mostly function as dumps for people living along the riverbanks.

Rustam admitted the river transportation system was a long- term project.

"The draft bylaw will serve as an umbrella for developing a comprehensive transportation concept for the city. We have seen the potential of the rivers as an alternative means of transportation in the future," he said.