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Huge problems in Greater Jakarta

By Bruce Gale--Jakarta, as every traveler to the city soon discovers, faces enormous problems.

Traffic congestion has long been at alarming levels, particularly during the morning and evening peak hours. Public transportation is woefully inadequate, while air pollution, persistent water shortages, and an almost non-existent sewerage system present serious health hazards.

But while critics rail at the corruption and administrative incompetence that often seems to be at the heart of Indonesia's problems, the most serious challenges facing Jakarta's urban planners may well lie elsewhere.

One issue is the capital's sheer size. Government statistics now put the population of Jakarta at more than 10 million, a figure which does not include the burgeoning satellite cities of Bogor, Depok, Tengerang and Bekasi.

The main challenge facing city planners, however, is the fact that the most effective solutions involve the cooperation of local governments that do not form part of the Jakarta Special Capital Region.

Solving Jakarta's perennial flooding, for example, requires the regencies in the upper reaches of the 13 rivers that run through Jakarta to refrain from permitting the construction of hotels and other developments in ways that have an impact on the catchment areas of these rivers.

Neighboring administrations, however, are rarely in a cooperative mood.

In March 2007, West Java Governor Dani Setiawan famously told the Jakarta administration that instead of complaining, it should thank the province. “Jakarta always accuses West Java of causing flooding in the capital, but ignores the fact that we are also its main supplier of water,” he said on the sidelines of a World Water Day event in Bogor. West Java province includes the regencies of Bekasi, Depok and Bogor.

West Java's Citarum Dam is one of the main sources of raw water for the capital's piped water company.

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