What Is a Slum, and What So Special about Slums in Jakarta?

When talking about slums, what comes into our mind probably relates to poverty and the poor hygienic conditions of the dwellings. However, around the world, the definition of slum varies among different countries. The word slum appeared or started to become a common word in the 19th century in the America and European countries when people, especially the architects and urban planners, began to concern about the issue of a proper town planning and somehow, they realised that there are some regions that should be ranked top the priority list to tackle in order to be an ideal city. Generally, they defined slums as “Any area of old, neglected and deteriorating housing is a slum as soon as it becomes insanitary or otherwise injurious to its occupants”*1, meaning that the conditions in slum are so bad to an extent that it cannot be recover on its own, other than the intervention by the local government through proper welfare and housing policies.

Photos credited to http://www.republika.co.id/berita/nasional/jabodetabek-nasional/12/12/17/mf5s84-perbaikan-kampung-pemprov-dki-libatkan-perusahaan-tata-pemukiman
Kampung in Jakarta © ANTARA

The formation of slums in Jakarta are slightly different. In general, the majority of slum in Jakarta originated from a kind of settlement called Kampung, which is a term equal to village. These kampungs consist of several hundreds of settlers living together to form a community. These kampungs themselves are self organised and able to operate on their own, independent of the support from external sources, although the houses there are often densely populated. Originally, they were the norm in Jakarta, but as time went by, they started to become the leftover regions. “After independence (of Indonesia), European ideas about urban spatial structure were adopted by the new political elites and adapted to the images they wished to propagate”*2

The urban development of Jakarta tore apart the social gap between the rich and the poor.

Bibliography and Reference

1. James, F., Phelps-Stokes Fund (1971) Slum and Housing: With Reference to New York City: History, Conditions, Policy, Volume 1. Negro Universities Press, p.11

2. Eric, S., Philip, P., David, F. and Richa, N. (2009) A World of Difference: Encountering and Contesting Development. New York: The Guilford Press, p.486

3 Comments on “What Is a Slum, and What So Special about Slums in Jakarta?

  1. It is interesting that slums in Jakarta originated from old settlements and became leftover regions. This is a problem due to neglect in development by the government. There is this opposing factor that the regions were in neglect and have spread into a culture of slums, but the government has realized slums as a threat to the city and now needs to improve to create a greater Jakarta. Are there any particular factors that dictate where slum areas flourish? And are there any land use changes in Jakarta due to the rapid expansion of slums?

  2. The formation of slums in Jakarta is similar to that of many other Southeast Asian cities, such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, where old settlements – Kampungs inevitably degrade and become obsolete due to the growing divergence over time between its performance and the tenants’ needs. This usually leads to the clearing out of slums, but some are preserved as a cultural heritage. What is Jakarta’s stance on clearing out the leftover slums?

  3. In my opinion, another rather special feature about slums in Jakarta is that they can coexist with a very developed area too. For instance, along Jalan Jenderal Sudirman where the famous office building by Paul Rudolph, Intiland Tower located, tall office buildings designed by well-known architectural firms are built along this main road. However, view of slums, poverty, and flooding are behind this glamorous scene of the central business district creating a huge contrast between prosperity and penury.

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