There are some things you can predict with certainty. Some not at all. With organisation comes order. With order comes predictability. With predictability comes certainty. So where does that leave Jakarta? Well organisation has become almost impossible since so many crucial do- by dates have passed. The whole mass transit system is so totally behind, not schedule but need. This means that traffic is horrible and will not actually be fixed when the system is ready, since this is only phase one and doesn’t address the main problem which is commuters getting into and out of Jakarta everyday from the suburbs. And that is only the beginning.
Organisation means pre -planning what happens in a city not post- planning, which what we in business call fighting fires! So this applies to having enough water for twenty million people, and enough electricity, both of which I am very doubtful of. Then there’s waste disposal and pollution which become an increasing challenge every day. But somehow, and all due credit to the city administration, we are still alive and afloat.
But for how long? How long before the immense pressure of population, the increasing purchasing power and the demand for a more automated, more modern life finally break the ability to keep up? I can’t really see us making safely though three years to be honest before we have a waste related crisis for example. An outbreak of cholera or a plague of rats. And probably a water shortage as the artesian wells dry up and the city water cannot cope.
And while we are at it we already know that there’s not enough electricity to cover the grid for Java and Bali but still we allow massive power sucking billboards to deplete our supply. And massive new malls and offices to be built. So I predict brown outs very soon too.
And what will people do? Well here’s the immense strength of Jakarta, and its greatest weakness. Nothing. They will not riot or panic. They will just accept and sit it out. If they did then we would probably not be in this situation! The politicians would be scared of losing their jobs. The City Councillors would have to sell their Lambourginis and face up to the demands of a very restive bunch of residents. There would be responsibility and response.
But that’s not going to happen. People are too nice and too forgiving. They don’t realize it’s their right to a safe, well organised, well lit, well managed life. Because they have never had one. And sadly, never will.
The future of Jakarta? The same as the past, and the present. Just busier!
Alistair G. Speirs