Mukta Naik

Over the last two decades, the awareness of the adverse impacts of climate change has grown and sustainability has become a key objective in urban planning. However, the interpretation of the green agenda in most Asian cities has been literal, with money spent on obvious aspects like parks and tree plantation, while more complex and holistic approaches have been harder to understand, leave alone implement.

This is where Surabaya, Indonesia’s 2nd largest urban centre and a metropolitan area with over 5 million people, has done well. Over the past few decades, but more aggressively since 2010 under the leadership of Mayor Tri Rismaharini (better known as Ibu Risma), Surabaya has approached the issue of sustainability in a multi-pronged manner by implementing the 3R campaign (to reduce, reuse and recycle) in the city. The city has won prestigious awards like the ‘ASEAN Environmentally Sustainable City Award 2012’ and Indonesia’s highest environmental awards, the ‘Adipura Kencana’ as well. Besides obvious measures like the conversion of the city’s open spaces into public parks and a successful tree plantation campaign, Surabaya’s local government has intervened through programs in diverse areas like sanitation, mangrove conservation, sustainable transport, etc.

A significant challenge for the city—like in most large Asian cities— has been to address improvements in the kampungs, which are dense and traditional settlements that house the poorer sections of the city. In Surabaya, about 63% of the population lives in kampungs that occupy only 7% of the city’s land; therefore pursuing a green agenda in the kampungs has been important to achieve sustainable development for the city.

File:Surabaya skyline.jpg

What’s green in the kampung?

Instead of seeing the kampung as a decaying inner city area in need of ‘redevelopment’ or ‘renewal’, Surabaya distinguished itself by recognising the heritage and cultural value of the kampung. Professor Johan Silas, eminent academician and urban practitioner, who has been an undying champion of the kampungs in the city, explains, “In our city development plans, the kampungs are considered heritage areas and a part of the city’s unique culture. You cannot even change the name of a kampung. We are very clear that the city needs the kampung.”

It all started in 1969, when the local government implemented the first phase of the Kampung Improvement Program (KIP) program. Funded largely by the Central government and the World Bank under a nationwide program, the KIP succeeded in providing basic services and making physical improvements to kampungs. By building strong partnerships with low-income communities and strategically involving the Institute of Technology under the direction of Professor Silas, the kampungs got basic services and physical infrastructure. They also became cleaner and greener as the program emphasized beautification and planting by residents.

Since 2001, however, Surabaya has funded its own Comprehensive Kampung Improvement Program (CKIP), which has a more holistic outlook than the KIP. By adopting the Tri Daya Plus agenda that equally emphasizes human, economic and environmental aspects of development, the city has placed liveability at the centre of the agenda of development and used community economic development as the primary tool for economic empowerment in the kampungs.

Now, residents in kampungs are now being encouraged to take up urban farming with a two-fold objective of generating food supplies within the city and providing viable livelihoods to poor. Besides flowers and decorative plants, kampung residents grow traditional herbs and vegetables in their kitchen gardens. Professor Silas points out that in the absence of land, old tin cans, pots and any spare objects are re-used as planters to grow herbs and food. Over time, families began to grow plants for commercial purposes. The City government supports them by providing seeds, organic fertilisers, compost from the city’s compost facilities and even training free of cost.

On the urban fringe, people are taken up urban farming on a larger scale. In the coastal areas, the city has encourage fish farming and many fisheries are growing fish successfully, especially catfish, which is easy to grow. The government organises an open Fair at the City hall,” Professor Silas explains, “where kampung residents can pick up, free of charge, manuals, seeds, fertilizers, etc. They can invite officers to come to the kampung and train them and demonstrate techniques.” There is evidence to show that urban farming has now become a way for kampung dwellers to multiply their income.

Relieving the poor of their worries is vital

Professor Silas is supportive of the government’s strategy to provide the urban poor with efficient amenities to address their basic needs. Beyond services, kampung residents can avail free tuition for all children, including free schoolbags, uniforms, shoes and other necessities as well as free basic medical services. Free childcare is available for children upto six months of age and the elderly are provided with free food, medical checks and exercise facilities. “The city is relieving kampung dwellers of their worries and this is a prerequisite if we expect the poor to become economically productive,” he opines. That many kampung businesses are now functioning sub-systems of the market economy with the ability to exports products, like bags, to the rest of the country, is proof of concept for Surabaya’s city government.

Conservation alongside rapid development

The integration of the kampung has been a key step in making Surabaya distinct as one of the region’s urbanising areas that, despite its size, feels and functions in an organised manner. Adjie Pamungkas, who teaches at the ITS in Surabaya says, “Unlike Jakarta, Surabaya has hardly any traffic congestion and is still affordable.” However, with the Teluk Lamong Green Sea Port being developed to the West of the city and the expansion of the Juanda airport, which is a critical connectivity hub for Eastern Indonesia, Surabaya is rapidly changing. Adjie feels confident that Mayor Risma’s foresight and strategy has catered for planned expansion. “She is working to put infrastructure in place so that the city is ready for growth. It is a good strategy to build a ring road connecting East and West to prevent congestion, for instance. Mayor Risma has also invited experts, including me, to form special panels that will evaluate the impacts of the high-rise buildings planned in the city to ensure that there is no negative impact to sustainability and quality of life in Surabaya,” he elaborates.

Is there a danger, however, that development and modernisation will negatively impact the city’s kampungs? Professor Silas does not think so. “While the younger generation is free to move out of the kampung, most of the residents still wish to stay. There is a sense of community here that they do not find elsewhere,” he says. The city is also developing rental housing in kampung areas to aid migrants coming into the city to work on various infrastructure projects. This too, alongside urban farming and community-based planning, helps in keeping the kampung relevant to the city’s development process.

Banner photo by Tom Weinz/United States Government

Photo 1 by Davidelit

Photo 2 by Gunkarta

Photo 3 by Sakurai Midori



Categories: Food Security, Livelihoods, Sustainability