No Place Like Home – Bukit Duri

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Though its hard to see it among the sprawl, Jakarta is a delta city, built on the low flat floodplains of the Ciliwung and numerous smaller rivers flowing down from the mountains south of the city.  Among the sprawl and smack in the middle of this floodplain sits Bukit Duri, a neighborhood bounded, and sometimes submerged by the Ciliwung river.  Its a lively place with an active community center, small businesses, and neighbors from all walks of life who enjoy their shared community.  The homes here are a mix of solid brick homes with brightly painted walls; and makeshift housing with little or no furniture and thin plywood walls.  Its a neighborhood like many others along Jakarta’s rivers.  The position of these neighborhoods hard by the banks of the Ciliwung makes them prone to massive flooding during the rainy season which in turn causes flooding in the rest of the city.  Because of annual massive flooding, the Jakarta government has decided to clean up the city’s chaotic infrastructure along the riverways and other parts of the city’s jumble of informal housing.  And this has meant that the residents of places like Bukit Duri who have been paying rent, paying electricity bills for decades face a very unfair situation.  The government’s argument that these neighborhoods along the riverways are just makeshift squatter camps is belied by the fact that they are officially connected to the city’s power grid, and that many of the residents can show documentation of their rental payments or even ownership of their homes.  And yet, the heart of this lively community has been gutted. Excavators and police descended on Bukit Duri and demolished the riverbank housing there, after forcing residents to move to low cost housing in an area far north of  their former neighborhood. Small businesses and services will have to somehow rebuild in the apartment complex; no easy task if your business is raising chickens or cooking street food for your open air stall.  Its clear that the government must do something to improve aging and disorderly infrastructure, and though they are improving the way they evict these riverfront communities, the result is still heartbreaking – to watch the home which provided you shelter and comfort for your entire life disappear instantly in the roar of an engine and a puff of smoke is a terrible thing.

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