Fitting a village in an apartment building

My grandmother used to live in a small beautiful village, an hour drive from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. Right in front of her house was a very productive beautiful wetland where the locals cultivated fish and ducks for consumption, with huge trees surrounding. There were one mushola (a small community's praying room) and six houses around the wetland, five of them were owned and lived in by three generations of the same family. On the west side of the wetland were rice fields and farms. Meanwhile tea plantation was in the far west of the village.

My grandmother’s house was surrounded by low fences with a one-meter-tall gate as an entrance. Then there was a long path with exotic fruit trees and flowers before the porch, before the front door. The house itself was surrounded by rambutan garden. It was an ideal preferred environment and territory for the family. At least that is how I remember that place from when I used to live there and the weekly visit later on.

Stereotypically the locals usually having a lot of kids--because they believe more kids give you more financial opportunity, and less access to education. Most of the generations who were born before the 80’s are fulfilling the hard labor market for the textile factories surrounding, which was started to operate at the 80’s. Due to lack of education, their lands usually being sold in little pieces to new settlers anytime they need money. As the parents get older, the remaining piece of land at the end will be divided for eight to nine children, so each kid will have small piece of land to build their house among the new settlers. Hence the rising of the density, resulted in smaller living area, and bigger environmental problems.

The village has changed physically and mentally, as I saw when I paid visit earlier this year. The wetland was converted into residential area, creeks have been used for untreated wastewater disposal, trees and birds are disappeared, and bunch of new settlers occupied more spaces. Once an ideally preferred environment and territory, now have less adequate physical setting as a preferable place to live. However, generations of local people who grew up in the village for decades still have the well-developed cognitive maps, positive feeling, as well as connection, both social connection to the community and to the land. In the meantime, conversation about forced eviction was getting more intense throughout the years. Local people predict eviction might happen anytime soon, and it will never be easy.

One of the solution offered by the government to avoid tumultuous on the day of forced eviction is by relocating the local people to a high apartment building with thousands of people living there. Here is when the problems of The Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project replicates.

Forced eviction is a big problem in big cities throughout Indonesia, especially Jakarta. The relations between government and developer, plus lack of knowledge about social, psychological and pro-urban-poor economy system on physical removal, resulted in violence. As human is a territorial animal who are attached to a certain physical space, most of the local people refuse to be removed from their roots. Meanwhile the government never learn how to make a good urban planning to help transform a village to become an urban area without messing with the local people’s territory. Violence and human right abused have been used to overcome this situation. However, the local people usually give a good fight and government will face a hard time. Local people will fight well in their own territory the familiar place where they have control. In their territory, people also have a strong sense of community, cooperation, as well as social commitment to reach the same goal among the settlers: to remain stay in their own land.

It will not be easy to force local people to leave their territory and their root as they will suffer the loss of connection to the land where they feel accepted. Only in their own territory human and animal can do what they want, and functioned the most effective. More than that, losing the preferred physical, social, psychological environment will also cause them losing their social interaction among friends and bigger family circle. Meanwhile, the high-rise apartment buildings from the government designed with many intrinsic problems: small living area, no buffer zone from public to private space, no pre-familiarization, and so on and so forth...

This situation creates to a lose-lose situation for the local people who become unrooted anywhere, they lost connection and territory to their land, and can’t cope with the new space. If only government help them with pre-familiarization to the new place, and change a little bit of the apartment design to give a buffer zone, it might work better.

However, I believe better option for this problem is to have a better urban planning with a pro-poor urban citizen mindset, to help keeping their preferable environment and territory, while fitting with the transition from a village to urban area.

Example on how Jogjakarta Provincial Government help village to keep preferable environment
while transforming to urban area without relocating the locals


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