Slum evictions in Jakarta for gentrification

Kampung Pulo (Tribun News:Herudin) August 20 2015

The few media sources reporting on this conflict in Indonesia are terse in their descriptions: ‘residents of Kampung Pulo in Jakarta clash with riot cops after the city moved in to evict them from illegal dwellings in a flood-zone along the banks of the Ciliwung river.’ It sounds like the authorities are doing ungrateful slum-dwellers a favor by evicting them. Brevity is media shorthand for too many damn lies to count.

Most of the slum dwellers on the Ciliwung banks are migrant workers & rural people who came to Jakarta for work after being forcibly displaced by palm oil agribusiness firms, in collusion with the Indonesian government, using slash & burn methods of deforestation & land expropriation. According to human rights groups, there are an estimated 4,000 land-related conflicts between palm oil plantation owners & local communities & farmers. Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil in the world. The deforestation & destruction of peatlands involved in the spread of plantations means it is also the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

As an equatorial & tropical archipelago, Indonesia has annual monsoonal rains & much of Jakarta is below sea level so it has always been prone to flooding. But it is getting clobbered with the effects of climate change which are triggering annual major floods. Warmer seas heat up monsoon winds that carry moisture from ocean to land, bringing extra heavy rain & burying the capital city in up to 17 feet of flood water. According to the government environmental official, Indonesia could lose 2,000 islands by 2030 due to rising sea levels from climate change. The official admits heavy flooding is not only a climate phenomenon but due to waterways choked with debris (the case with the Ciliwung River), lack of adequate flood control systems, & the large-scale deforestation to build palm oil plantations & make room for a huge construction boom in Jakarta’s water catchment areas.

Indonesian authorities didn’t move 2,155 riot cops in to Kampung Pulo with tear gas & water cannons to save the residents from flooding & squalid conditions. Like in every other country where they’re forcibly evicting slum residents, it is to privatize the lands & gentrify with swanky malls, luxury apartments, casinos, & resorts. There are several development plans laid out for the banks of the Ciliwung River.

Negotiations have been going on for a while between authorities & Kampung Pulo residents. Only a few weeks ago, authorities made promises of alternative low-cost housing. Residents of the 546 dwellings wanted compensation instead of apartments. Today authorities say the dwellings were built illegally on public lands so they will be evicted & the homes demolished without compensation. There is of course no alternative housing for residents to move to.

The global demand for Indonesia’s natural resources made it profitable for foreign investors & fueled the rise of Indonesian fortunes from coal, palm oil, oil & gas. The fortunes of Indonesia’s 12 billionaires & countless millionaires are built on deforestation & plundering of resources so the regime is unlikely to alter the profitable ventures causing global warming, provide for a flood control infrastructure, or provide affordable housing to the hundreds of thousands displaced.

Photo is of confrontation today between residents & police. Three residents were injured in the confrontation & 27 were arrested, at last report. Our fullest solidarity with their struggle.

(Photo from Herudin/Tribun News)