A home for the squatters

Flooding is a yearly event for all Jakartans, whether rich or poor. However, Jakarta now has a governor and a vice governor who are committed to solving the problems of flooding. The flooding in itself has yet to be solved, but many other problems caused by flooding have been taken on. One issue is providing homes for the poor who currently live in the dam area, which is supposed to be a reservoir during the rainy season. In January-February of this year, a big flood occurred, affecting the squatter communities in many areas of Jakarta, including on the Pluit Dam land in North Jakarta.

The Pluit Dam is a man-made lake that was built to hold water during the flooding season. The Pluit Dam was originally 80 hectares, with a depth of 7 to 8 meters. As a result of an inability of the city government to maintain control of the dam as a water reservoir, it has since become a human settlement. Squatters have now taken over approximately a quarter of the dam's area.

In January 2013, around 9200 families lived on the the Pluit Dam state land. Because of the continued rain in January and February, the whole area became severely flooded. As the settlement was built largely on a soft base made out of garbage, the community was almost completely inundated by the flood, and many residents had to be evacuated. This became seen as especially scandalous because the new vice governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama lives near the Pluit Dam. This entire area of elite housing complexes was hit strongly, leading the vice governor to address the causes of the flood of the squatters near the Pluit Dam.

The vice governor has argued that the issue clearly lies in the provision of housing facilities, and that the solution is to relocate the squatters. The city government quickly reviewed the existing policy on housing provision, and Vice Governor Basuki renewed his commitment to quickly tackling existing bottlenecks that had caused the government's low-cost housing project to stagnate. Examinations showed that the execution of the housing program was subject to mismanagement, which resulted in low-quality housing, meaning that the squatters were reluctant to move in. Once the governor fired the head of the housing program for misconduct, the relocation project continued.

In order to incite the squatters to move into the new housing complex, the city government decided to exempt them from paying the first three months of rent, and elected to provide free water and electricity, a free refrigerator, gas stove, TV set, spring bed, as well as a set of furniture. The vice president has promised that the squatters will live more comfortably in these new apartments compared to their former homes in the Pluit Dam. The city government has also been helping the squatters move, and has built new public facilities nearby, including health clinics, schools, and mosques. The important efforts made by the city authorities in providing homes for the squatters has meant that by mid-May, over 1200 families have moved to the new apartments. However, over 8000 families remain, meaning that further efforts are necessary to relocate them from the Pluit Dam area.

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