The spatial plans & the kampung 5: Why was the Spatial Planning Law unsuccessful?

Previous posts looked at how part of the mangrove in Kamal Muara was slated for removal despite legal protection. How did this happen? The neglect of the Spatial Planning Law can be explained by four main conditions:

  • Slack implementation: The Spatial Planning Law was generally seen by local governments as a recommendation rather than a regulation (Cowherd, 2002). In fact, only around 8% of residential development in the end of the 20th century was in accordance with spatial plans. Plans were not referred to by administrative officials in planning and processing of Location Permit applications (Cowherd, 2002). There were no sanctions for neglecting the plans (Rukmana, 2015), and bribery to compensate for plan deviation was not uncommon (Server, 1996).
  • Corruption: Local officials were under a lot of pressure from private developers (Rukmana, 2015), and the multiple presidential decrees defying the Spatial Planning Law as well as the corruption may also have instigated a careless attitude towards the spatial plans (Cowherd, 2002). Interviews among relevant government officials by Rukmana (2015) indicate that spatial plans were made to accommodate private interests rather than public concerns.
  • Unclear plans: The spatial plans generally did not specify parcels and land use zoning, and the exact boundaries between areas were often ambiguous, which made it easy to circumvent the plan at a local scale (Cowherd, 2002).  Contradicting and missing maps were a frequent issue in Indonesia a the time, often leading to disputes between residents and developers (Bretz, 2017). Not only accurate maps, but copies of spatial plans were also difficult access – not only for the general population, but even within the government (Cowherd, 2002).
  • Freedom of speech was limited: local residents did not dare to speak up for the fear of being deported by police, or be deprived of their land rights (Rukmana, 2015; Voorst, 2016, p126-127). Thus projects disregarding the spatial plans and, more importantly, the consequences, were unlikely to be reported.

As mentioned in earlier posts (see the “Modernizing Jakarta” posts), neglect of the Spatial Planning Law was often justified by prioritization of economic growth (Rukmana, 2015; Cowherd, 2002). As mentioned in an interview with an scholar of urban planning in Bandung:

“The economic growth and the expansion of employment are more important than the enforcement of spatial plans. (…) Spatial plans were frequently prepared to accommodate the interest of developers rather than to plan for more sustainable areas and communities.” (Rukmana, 2015, p10)




Bretz, Kaitlyn Justine (2017). “Indonesia’s One Map Policy: A Critical Look at the Social Implications of a ‘Mess’“. Senior Theses, 134. University of South Carolina. Accessed 12.12.2018 at

Cowherd, Robert, (2002). Planning or cultural construction. In Peter J.M. Nas (Ed), The Indonesian town revisited, pp 17-38. Muenster & Singapore: Lit Verlag & Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

Rukmana, Deden (2015). The Change and Transformation of Indonesian Spatial Planning after Suharto’s New Order Regime: The Case of the Jakarta Metropolitan Area. International Planning Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13563475.2015.100872.

Server, O.B. (1996). Corruption: A Major Problem for Urban Management. In Habitat International, 20(1), pp23-41

Voorst, Roanne Van (2016). Natural Hazards, Risk and Vulnerability : Floods and Slum Life in Indonesia. New York: Routledge Humanitarian Studies Series.

Second year undergraduate student of Architecture at HKU, now writing about Kamal Muara, a fishing village / kampung in northern Jakarta, and its political circumstances in the 90s.

3 Comments on “The spatial plans & the kampung 5: Why was the Spatial Planning Law unsuccessful?

  1. Very good description and detailed analysis of the big problems of social segregation, the violence of urban planning law as well as environment destruction in Jakarta from the perspective of political, historical and economic aspects.

    However, the whole narratives need to specify a more clear inherent relationship between this three main issues or only highlight one or two key issues, in order to make the arguments stronger and more logical.

    • Thank you very much for your comment Sibei, I did some edits to make the posts more coherent and clarify the relation to the focus area and timeframe.

  2. It’s inspiring to read about how the making of an urban plan favored certain social classes and, eventually, became a tool of the country’s autocrat. The attempts to solve the flooding issue were rather superficial, considering both the slack implementation and the arbitrariness the government demonstrated in plan making (as you mentioned in the post, the issued plans sometimes contradict each other). I notice that there were oppositions from the Ministry of Environment against the waterfront development of Jarkata. So perhaps Suharto was able to suppress such voices by making use of certain laws or regulations, same as the method he used for maintaining his dictatorship. This might be a potential factor that resulted in the under-implementation of the Spatial Planning Law. I think the story of an Indonesia governemnt guided by economic development failing to protect the vulnerable group in the country does present a lesson that people should learn from. Nice analysis!

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