like old Sodom & Gomorrah
your judgment time soon comes . . .
“J-Town Rock” by Ras Muhamad
The favorite flavor for 2011 will be apocalypse — with or without the chocolate chips. A Jakarta Post opinion piece from last week is headed “Immediate action sought to prevent catastrophe in Jakarta.”
People who presumably know lots and lots about the fundamentals of Jakarta send out these types of SOS messages frequently. However, as the writer of the piece points out, accurately predicting utter chaos around here doesn’t require expertise. Simply multiply the number of automobiles times the length of the average ‘mobile and you’ll see that it exceeds the total number of roadway kilometers we’ve got here in Jak Metro. Now subtract from that total mess the earth that lies beneath it — the actual process is called land subsidence.
We don’t know a lot about earth science at the Sharehouse. But since we’ve been here, nearly a foot of soil in the front yard has somehow disappeared, while tree roots have been mysteriously rising up out of the ground. So believe what you read in the papers: with so much cement piled up between Sunda Kelapa port and the Salak range in Bogor, the water can’t drain properly. And so — somehow — the whole concrete jungle is headed south of the water table at the impressive rate of 5 — 8 cm per year.
Despite Dutch design, inestimable Indonesian pride in our Big Durian, and the decades of miserably hard work it has taken to make Jakarta the incredibly happening place it is (was?), Jakartans have this sinking feeling. The malling of Jakarta is lots of fun at Christmastime, fair enough. But these truly are the latter days, dudes. You’ll note that the water around you is growing. Look at the street artists, listen to the Ras man rap about it or/or take it in measured-but-potent doses from Simon Pitchforth of Metro Mad.
The moment when it really hits you is when you notice that a quiet back street or alley — which describes perhaps 80% of Jakarta, for better or worse, has suddenly become a “strategic” thoroughfare. Often during rainy season the most proximate cause of gridlock is flooding which, I suppose, further reduces the total roadway kilometers.
So, the problem is both too much cement and too many vehicles . The enormously successful Japanese-Indonesian joint ventures such as Astra-Honda have got us all the way to here. Perhaps Kawasaki’s Jet Ski is the Kijang of the future here in the blade runner’s water world.
2007 was the year when little kids were jumping off the overpass into the flooded intersection in front of the the BNI tower and the adjacent Transjakarta elevated pedestrian walkway (Duku Atas) formed a lovely jungle canopy walk high above the swamp. Jakarta was brought to a standstill and the loudest sounds were chirping birds. It reminded me very much of the Bali Bird Park, which bills itself as “Heaven on Earth.”
Right now we’re standing by for extremely extreme La Nina weather at the beginning of 2011. But never mind that little girl. As per the five-year flood cycles reaching way back into Dutch times, if 2007+ 5 = 2012, then something Biblical is surely in store for the Instant Expat . . . if we can just be patient. As they say at the Bird Park, “let your imagination soar.”