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Jakarta Today: Updates and Social Initiatives

NEWS | 2 June 2016

The famous melancholic lyric above comes from an old song titled “Kembali ke Jakarta” (Back to Jakarta), written by legendary Indonesian band Koes Ploes, who, in their glory days, were touted as ‘The Beatles of Indonesia’. Many citizens regard the song as Jakarta’s anthem since it depicts the Jakartan people’s unconditional love for their city, despite its many problems.


As a Jakarta native, I often feel tired to face all of the problems that the city has; from the infeasible sidewalks, lack of green areas, to unavoidable annual flooding, and of course its notorious, exhausting congestion. Yet, I’d still confidently say that I will always come back to this city whatever happens. This is also the sentiment of millions of other Jakarta residents, including those who where born here, those who have landed here from out of town, and a handful from overseas. Yes, Jakarta and its dynamics are like two sides of coin; alluring but also deceiving.

Jakarta does have many problems but luckily the capital is also blessed with loving citizens who want the best for their city. Both citizens and city authorities are continuously making an effort to make this city more comfortable and pleasant to live in. Especially for this edition, we take you closer to several inspirational initiatives which have been created by either the city government or independent communities with the same purpose in mind: to create a better Jakarta.

Jakarta Reclamation Project

Jakarta’s reclamation project to build 17 man-made islets in the northern areas of the city was initiated in 1995 under the governance of the then President Soeharto. However, due to various constraints, the project experienced a number of delays before finally starting back in 2012. Many experts agree that land reclamation is a smart solution to solve many problems caused by human overcrowding of developed areas.


Today, the Governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, better known as Ahok, is supporting the mega project as he believes the reclamation can help to solve land problems in the city. Jakarta is facing an alarming situation at the moment; its land is sinking as fast as 15 to 18 centimetres a year due to massive extraction of groundwater from below the land. If this problem is not handled quickly, it’s possible that the city will eventually meet its worst nightmare: sinking into the sea.

Nonetheless, the project is unavoidably causing controversy. Ahok once said to the press that reclamation is beneficial for Jakarta’s government as 45 percent from the islands will become the property of Jakarta government and some of them will be dedicated to public facilities, including public housing for low-income families, green areas and so forth. In contrast, many parties oppose the reclamation project as it is considered to violate a number of legal regulations, which ultimately led to its temporary termination status. However, the city authorities are optimistic that they can continue to develop this project after all the requirements needed have been fulfilled.

MRT Progress

Mass Rapid Transportation (MRT) is the most eagerly awaited transportation project ever to happen in the city. Over the past years, we have become familiar with MRT construction work in a number of our main thoroughfares which has often worsened the traffic. Still, our resentment at the current disruption is balanced with a hope of better mobilisation in the future with the MRT project.


Since beginning in 2013, the completion of the MRT system has reached approximately 44.45 percent and is expected to be finished later next year. According to its official website (, the construction works for MRT Jakarta South-North phase 1 (Lebak Bulus - Bundaran HI) has reached approximately 46.72 percent. The overpass construction work is now achieving 30.35 percent while the underground construction is halfway done (around 63.25 percent based on the April report). In addition to MRT, city authorities also promise other transportation modes to make Jakartans’ lives easier, namely Light Rapid Transit (LRT) and the improvement of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). Recently, the Jakarta authorities also announced plans to construct eight overpasses and one underpass in the city later this year.

The Abolishment of the 3-in-1 Regulation

Last month, the 3-in-1 traffic restriction which was applied in several city thoroughfares (Jl M.H. Thamrin, Jl. Jendral Sudirman, Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat, Jl. Sisingamangaraja and Jl. Gatot Subroto) was officially abolished. Initially, the regulation was designed to reduce congestion at rush hour in the aforementioned streets. However, this effort was breached due to illegal ‘jockeys’ (people catching a ride in vehicles with less than three passengers for a fee) who often exploited underage kids or even babies while carrying out their business.


After a trial period of a few weeks, the Jakarta Transportation Agency decided to remove the 3-in-1 regulation, effective from May 16th. The city government is now proposing two new alternatives to overcome traffic problems; an “odd-even” system and Electronic Road Pricing (ERP). The “odd-even” system will apply in accordance with applicable dates of the calendar year. Meanwhile, ERP is currently in the bidding process with various parties. Ahok said the city administrations are continuing to pursue the enactment of ERP which will be supported by cross-subsidies. Not only helping the mobility of Jakarta citizens, the ERP is also expected to support the mobility of people who live in surrounding cities, such as Depok, Bekasi, Tangerang and Bogor.

Utarakan Jakarta

Loosely translated as “Speak up (North) Jakarta,” Utarakan Jakarta aims to raise public awareness to protect the city against floods. The project was founded by Cynthia Boll and Jan Heerkens who saw a feature item on the Dutch news on a project in Jakarta called the Giant Seawall. It showed the issues regarding how fast Jakarta is sinking and the involvement of Dutch and Indonesian experts in finding solutions and developing a master plan.

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Utarakan Jakarta portrays the lives of four people living in North Jakarta behind the seawall in a Facebook Campaign, website and recent exhibition. Through striking photographs, the campaign captures their struggles with floods, sinking houses and the costs of drinking water in a city on the verge of drowning. In addition to these personal stories, experts give their opinion about causes and solutions of land subsidence, waste and pollution, preservation of the coast and green space and the importance of history and cultural heritage. The campaign shows their worries, dreams and hopes for a better future.

Baca Buku Bareng

In accordance with National Book Day in May, iJakarta, the pioneer of the first social media-based digital library application in Indonesia, launched the “Baca Buku Bareng” (Reading Books Together) campaign. The campaign is supported by the Regional Archives Council, Jakarta Provincial Education Department, Jakarta Smart City, the National Library and Nusa Membaca Foundation. Baca Buku Bareng is a public activity to read, discuss books and to share digital books from and to Jakarta citizens through iJakarta.

Jamuan Makan Malam - Gerakan Baca Buku Bareng - 17 Mei 2016

Accordingly, the public can also have their own personal library in iJakarta which can be borrowed by other members. Through iJakarta, the public can share interesting book references, give feedback or comments to each other, and even use as a space for aspiring writers to publish their work.The campaign can be followed by individuals, writers, publishers, public figures, communities and social institutions or organisations. To encourage the involvement of all stakeholders, Baca Buku Bareng has scheduled a variety of interesting activities throughout 2016, such as book discussions with authors, writing competitions, and so forth. This activity is expected to evoke the spirit of reading and learning, especially amongst young people.