Indonesia: Development Linking with Academia

As the taxi drove down the busy intersection of the dual carriageway, lined with buildings, the driver asked us ”Which department?” Bewildered, we told him to first take us to the Institute. “This is the campus”, he said. So, we had already entered the Institut Technology Sepuluh Nopember, Surabaya. With no boundary walls, its many departments, administration blocks and the staff town intermingled with the city. Like a live organ of the throbbing metropolis. Unlike our academic institutes–walled, hedged, fenced, enclaved. Guarded by rangers. Isolated from the city and its dwellers. As if existing outside its space and time.

The corridors of the Faculty of Architecture hummed with activity. In search of Professor Johan Silas, we climbed up the first floor of the building, a simple, poorly-maintained, modern structure. As the students hurried in or out of the class rooms, or lounged along the glass walls, notes from a guitar wafted out and I peeped into a room. Its door slightly ajar, the narrow room was crowded with a group of students, sitting on the matted floor–some reclining–and a boy was strumming the guitar. Outside, the wide corridor was lined on both sides with models, projects and prototypes, prepared by students.

A student helped us track down the professor busy talking to his associate in the corridor. We introduced ourselves briefly indicating our interest in the Kampung Improvement Programme he was involved with. We were lucky to have arrived the day when a visit to a kampung (katchi abadi) had already been arranged for a foreign delegate, we were told. “You can join us. We will leave at 1 PM. Meanwhile, you can attend the seminar in progress in the department”, Prof. Silas told us.

The Department of Architecture, we came to know, arranges regularly seminars and workshops on issues related to urban planning and invites national and foreign experts to share experiences. That day Patrick Wakely, Professor of Urban Development and Director Development Planning Unit, University College London, was talking about the new paradigm–capacity building–for better Asian cities.

“Municipal governments and administrations are the key actors in  the management of towns and cities. Yet over the last 40 years, in all but a handufl of countries, they have been starved of authority and resources, and constrained by obsolete legislation, restrictive practices, outmoded equipment and inappropriately trained staff. Many of their traditional and development roles have been usurped or bypassed by central government corporations and utility companies. But the new paradigms are changing all these and calling for an urgent and massive exercise in re-building the capacity of local government and administration”, Professor Wakely was telling the roomful of students, faculty staff and local administrators.

Development Planning Unit, University College London, I was told, together with Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies, Rotterdam, Asian Insititute of Technology and the Lund Centre for Habitat Studies, Sweden, is working closely with the Training and Capacity Building Section of UNCHS (Habitat) to provide institutional and professional support to all levels of capacity building through the exchange of information and experience to a Network of the countries of the South, and Indonesia is a member of the Network.

I met Professor Silas in his office on the same floor.

“There are plenty of projects that we work with the local government. The cooperation between our Institute and the  government started 30 years ago, in 1967. We were initially involved in developing urban plans. As you know since the very begining the government has put strong emphasis on improving the existing low-income settlements. So we were requested to assist the government in doing the preparatory work for the programme”, Prof. Silas said.

The Kampung Improvement Programmes (KIPs) was the massive urban-scale programme started in Surabaya in 1967, launched in Jakarta in 1969 and initiated in other major urban centres in the early 1970s by the Indonesian government. “In Surabaya, the programme began with simple interventions.  Comprehensive work in the city’s kampungs started in 1976 after the local government got assistance from the World Bank, improving the methods for efficient service delivery to low-income settlements”. The initial interventions were the provisions for basic amenities, like potable water, drainage and access roads. The programme was successful as it had ensured community participation and involvement in maintaining the roads, drains and water-supply systems. Later, the facilities for  garbage disposal, schools and clinics were also  introduced in the kampungs.

“Most cities in Indonesia have been actually developed by people”, Prof. Silas said. “In the beginning there were scattered, small rural villages. With the provision of better infrastructure and economic activities these rural settlements expanded and became cities. Formal development plans, especially of European models, were only introduced in late last century. So, a typical city in Indonesia is basically a dualistic city–a part developed informally by people and another part formally planned and developed by the state. Population wise, so-called people-developed settlements cater for about 60% of the city’s population. In some cities it is more than 60%. But these settlements are not necessarily slums, and they are not necessairly new. Some are squatters, but, definitely not all. They are old traditional villages and this is why the programme of supporting the initial part of the city becomes very important.” Surabaya, the rapidly growing port city is the capital of East Java. With a population of 3 million, it is the second largest city of Indonesia.

Working with government ‘is not easy’, Prof. Silas said. “We have to fight with the local government and take a stand on many issues. But our relationship has endured, for the good of the city. However, this is not the case in other cities. The local government and the academia has not worked so well together elsewhere. I think Surabaya is an exception.”

In the afternoon, Prof. Silas and Mohammad Faqih, a lecturer in the same department, took us and Prof. Wakely to have a look at one of the kampungs in the center of the city.

“The waste disposal problem has been taken care of, as you see the city is mostly clean. To a certain extent, the population behaves quite well. Five years ago a campaign was launched in the city to clean the graffiti, and the campaign got such a good response from people–especially from students–that all the wall chalkings were washed out and now people refrain from dirtying their environs”,  Prof. Silas was telling us.

Our cars stopped outside the Prof. residence,  a simple house hidden behind trees, shrubs and plants. We were told we had reached the kampung. ‘The kampung? Near the Professor’s house?’ We were surprised. Yes. The low-income settlement bordered the neighbourhood the professor was inhabiting since the last 20 years or so. The low-income and the middle-or-upper-middle-income settlements co-existed peacefully, gracefully, together without any obvious demarcations. “I liked this neighbourhood. So I didn’t move out”, he told us.

The kampung comprised narrow, concretised lanes, lined with open drains, small houses, community taps at the corners, a school, mosque, clinic, and an office of the community organisation. “There are septic tanks in each houses. Underground water table in this area is high so there is no underground sewerage system”, we were told. There was no litter on the streets and the drains were clean. At one corner we came across a big brass bell hung at a post outside the house of the community guard. “This is used to alarm the community against fire, robbery or other accident”. At one end of the kampung was a large covered market. On rows of wooden stalls–managed mostly by women–laid out fresh vegetables, fruit, spices, meat and other food stuff and items of daily use. “The stall keepers pay rent to the municipal corporation”. The kampung is divided into 60-70 hectare neighbourhood units and each unit covers 100 households. Every 4-5 units have a community organisation. “We try to look into their needs, with the active participation of community organisations and try to improve”. One section of the kampung had wider streets and we spotted motor cycles outside some of the houses.

According to an estimate the benefits of Kampung Improvement Programmes (KIPs) have reached more than 15 million low-income urban residents in many parts of Indonesia. The improvement in physical infrastructure has spurred kampung dwellers to invest their own money and labour in upgrading their houses and surroundings. It has also accelerated income-generating activities and cottage industry which is supported by the government with credit and training facilities.

“The basic principle of the project is that the government is providing urban services to settlements built by the people  and that includes access roads, footpaths, waste collection and drainage, public taps, public toilets, health clinics and also educational facilities. Indonesia is now past the phase of 6-year compulsory education and on to the 3rd phase of implementing 9-year compulsory education which means schools need to provided at all levels by the state.” Indonesia has placed strongest emphasis on primary education and has invested heavily, since 1970, in primary education especially in rural areas. It has now almost attained universal primary education.

“Hence, we can say that a comprehensive approach in urban development is being implemented since 1967,” Prof. Silas continued as we walked down the kampung streets.  “In general you can say that low-income settlements built by the people have improved in one way or the other by public interventions but the rate of improvement in itself is slow so it is left behind. It cannot catch with the improvement in the formally planned parts of the city. And this is the big challenge for the government.

“I think the major problem for us, especially in the future, is the problem of human resource development. In the 21st century we face very stiff competition with first class countries like Singapore and Malaysia, not with second class countries. Competition, in my mind, depends very much on human resource development. Unless you have good human resources, you cannot compete in this age. And human resource does not imply only those who go to the universities, but to all classes of people”, he said as we sipped sherbet in the cool, shaded verandah of the Professor’s residence, overlooking an open courtyard covered with an old, shady tree with gnarled hanging roots, tall plants and variegated foliage. Up on a branch, sat a cockatoo, majestic and quiet, the family’s pet bird. “We don’t keep it in a cage”, we were told.

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