Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is the world’s second-largest city.

In ten years, between 2000 and 2010, the city’s population grew by seven million people or as many inhabitants as the city of Kuala Lumpur. The end of the growth probably not in sight, Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and its Gross Domestic Product is forecast to continue to grow at around 5% per year.

More than five million people in Greater Jakarta are estimated to live in slums or poor kampongs as they are called locally. The new arrivals are mostly poor. As land and housing is scarce, many people illegally built their ramshackle houses on government land, often near a river or rubbish dump. People are reluctant to invest in their homes because of the constant threat of eviction. Only 35% of Jakarta’s homes had access to potable water, and 32% of homes had a per capita living space of less than seven square meters per capita according to data from the Central Statistics Agency in 2009.

High risk of flooding

Besides all the problems that are related to its fast growth, Jakarta is also very prone to flooding. Approximately 40% of the urban area is below sea level; at least 25% of the city runs a high risk of flooding. The land at risk of flooding and landslides is increasing; the city annually subsides an additional 12 centimeters below sea level and there is more rainfall and extreme rains due to climate change. In 2007 a large flood cost the city more than $400 million in material damages, lost productivity and traffic jams.

The Human Cities Coalition chose Jakarta as one of the two cities to start its work because it is a megacities in a river delta, posing extra challenges to which we could contribute as members of our coalition are worldwide leaders in water management.

We are currently conducting a large-scale needs assessment in Jakarta to determine the most pressing problems as identifies by local communities, NGOs, government authorities at different level and companies. We are expecting the results in November on the basis of which we can soon share our priorities and next steps.