Wed, 09 Jul 2003

Rivers not fit to be used for transportation, experts say

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Officials and experts have expressed pessimism about the city administration's plan to incorporate Jakarta's rivers into an integrated urban transportation system, saying the administration would face too many technical problems.

Public works agency head IGKG Suena told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that making use of rivers for transportation purposes would not be an easy job as the city's rivers were not suitable for transportation.

Technical problems that would be faced by the administration included the poor condition of the rivers, which were mostly shallow and narrow, as well as the bridges, which were not high enough to be passed by medium-sized boats.

Suena said that although his agency was tasked with preparing a section of the Ciliwung river from Pasar Baru in Central Jakarta to Ancol in North Jakarta for a pilot project, he doubted that the dream of successfully developing river transportation in Jakarta would be feasible.

"It's okay if the rivers are only used for tourism but if they're used for mass public transportation, I don't think so," he said.

Suena said that his agency would have a massive amount of work to do if the rivers were to be used for public transportation, including dredging and widening the rivers, and reconstructing bridges. This would be financially out of the question.

The City Council and the relevant agencies in the administration are currently discussing a draft bylaw on incorporating river transportation as part of the wider city transportation system.

Suena said that river transportation could be developed on the East Flood Canal, the construction of which will be inaugurated by President Megawati Soekarnoputri on July 10.

"We'll design the East Flood Canal for river transportation. It will be some 100 meters in width so that it can be traversed by large boats. We'll also design the bridges crossing the canal so that they'll be high enough to let boats pass," he said.

A transportation expert from the Pelangi Foundation, Jack Sumabrata, doubted the administration's seriousness in developing the new transportation system.

"I support the idea of developing rivers as an integral part of the city transportation system but I'm pessimistic that it will be successful as the project would need a high level of commitment from the administration," he said.

Jack said that the river and other means of transportation, such as buses and railways, could support each other. Therefore the administration should conduct a comprehensive study into the proposal.

"Without integrating such a river transportation system with other systems, its contribution to the overall city transportation system will not be significant."

Pessimism about the administration's seriousness in resolving the city's transportation problems was also voiced by the Coalition for Jakarta Transportation.

The coalition's spokesman, Azas Tigor Nainggolan, criticized the draft bylaw, which is currently being discussed by the City Council, saying that it lacked comprehensiveness.

Tigor pointed out that the draft did not give adequate attention to pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles.

The coalition also expressed its readiness to share its knowledge with councillors for the purpose of deliberating the draft bylaw.

The coalition's members include the Jakarta Residents' Forum (Fakta), Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), the Joint Committee for Phasing Out Leaded Gasoline, the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), Swisscontact and Pelangi.