Sat, 08 Mar 2003

Who cares about green oases in Jakarta?

Nirwono Joga, Chairman, Indonesian Landscape Architecture Study Group, Jakarta

We can expect even less green open space along with this drawn-out economic crisis. The economic squeeze will certainly increase the occupancy of open areas on roadsides, under flyovers and in vacant plots -- while at last count there was only 9 percent of green area remaining of 65,000 hectares of the total area of Jakarta, the ideal is 30 percent.

Discourse on floods have always prompted the immediate handling of green open space. Unfortunately, Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso is instead busy with his idea to put deer in the National Monument (Monas) square.

Efforts to reforest the Bung Karno Sports Hall area and the defunct airport of Kemayoran began a long time ago. Earlier, other related programs like the Urban Regreening Movement (1970), the Urban Forest Development Program (1984), the One Million-tree Program (1992) have been carried out, but the results have not been clear.

Yet the Jakarta administration, with the support of the Legislative Council, has curtailed the availability of the green areas.

In its 1965-1985 master plan, the city allocated 37.2 percent of the total city area for the green belt; in the general plan of Jakarta's 1985-2000 spatial layout design, the figure was downsized to 25.85 percent. In the current 2000-2010 plan, only 13.94 percent is left for the green open space in the regional spatial layout design of Jakarta. This indicates the constant decrease of the green areas by over 50 percent.

The city administration's failure to involve stakeholders -- the capital residents living around the green belts -- to manage and preserve green areas has also worsened the situation. Residents' life styles may contribute to the deterioration of the environment, and threaten the sustainability of the green spaces.

The administration has long been using a double standard in managing green areas or open space.

On one hand, shortage of funds to properly manage the green belts has been claimed as the main constraint. On the other hand billions of rupiah have been prodigally spent for far from urgent projects, such as the renovation of the Hotel Indonesia roundabout and the fence around Monas park.

The City Council should have refused the administration's proposals on such projects, which are against the sustainable zoning plan. It should start to make provincial regulations on the conservation of landscape and green areas.

So, what about the administration's obligation to provide the residents with proper open spaces when the rearrangement of natural ponds as water reservoir and greenbelts along the river banks have yet to be successful?

What about the cleaning up of spaces under the flyovers, the rearrangement of public cemeteries, or the construction of sports areas?

The administration will never be able to manage and develop the green open spaces alone. Public empowerment is preferable. But cooperation or partnership with the public will never work smoothly unless the administration's policy consistently caters to the residents' need for open space. The empowerment scheme will also fail if the administration continues to carry out projects which are against the residents' need for open space.

It is obvious that a lack of professionalism is behind the increasing losses of open space in the city. Poor law enforcement is another matter.

Between 1989 and 2001, the city administration had removed only four out of 36 gas stations currently standing on a total of 5.31 hectares formerly green areas. The four gas pump stations occupying a total of 0.27 hectares. Meanwhile the Plaza Senayan, Mulia Hotel, Taman Anggrek Mall, Pluit Mega Mall, Pantai Indah Kapuk or the South Jakarta mayoralty office which are standing on areas supposed to be for open areas have yet to be touched.

It is impossible to expect these places to be turned back into green areas again. Ironically, the Jakarta administration has been chasing away roadside vendors and destroying shanties on river banks, as well as relocating grave yards in search of new open spaces.

The regional administration must immediately draw up a master plan for the green areas and an urban landscape design guideline in a very transparent and responsible manner consistent with the spirit of reform.

The restoration, renovation, rehabilitation, reconstruction and conservation of the green areas must be preceded by a an in depth and independent analysis on environmental and social impacts. The paradigm of the open space as a public place must be promoted better across the country.

Many officials see open spaces like a cake that must be divided among local officials of different state-owned institutions.

In many parts of the country green open spaces have been divided into a site for graves, parks, or agricultural and forestry purposes. The result is the overlapping of planning and management of green open space.

The revamping of the entire structure and management of institutions in charge of managing green areas, including the likelihood of a merger of such bodies, needs a review before trees are chopped down and open space vanishes.

Finally, regional leaders need to commit themselves to sustaining green areas and be consistent in order for a city's environmental plan to be successful. Conserving green areas means saving valuable and long-lasting assets for the sake of the city residents' sustainable life.