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Jakarta Governor Defends Record on Environmental Problems

  • Chad Bouchard

Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso has defended his environmental record from harsh criticism for problems that include floods and notoriously dirty air. Chad Bouchard reports from the Indonesian capital.

The Indonesian capital is heavily polluted, and is listed among Asian cities with the lowest air quality. It also is widely known for constant traffic jams.

Critics blame the problems on poor development strategies and a weak enforcement of regulations.

Massive floods inundated Jakarta last month, forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and killing at least 48.

Since then, moderate seasonal rain has brought fresh flooding to low-lying areas of the city, 40-percent of which is under sea level.

During a news conference, Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso blamed the central government for the floods, because it did not manage upstream floodwaters.

The governor says that no matter what he does in Jakarta, if there is no coordination in upstream areas outside the capital, it will make no difference. He says the involvement of the central government is crucial in resolving the flooding problem, but so far, he sees no such involvement.

In response to severe floods in 2002, Sutiyoso drafted a runoff management plan. Environmental groups say that effort has fallen far short of its goals.

Indonesia's environment minister blamed the floods on reckless property development in the city, saying too many malls and new buildings have been approved despite poor drainage plans.

Sutiyoso says he is stuck with many building contracts that were approved before his administration.

The sprawling city of 11 million people also is choked with traffic due in part to a lack of public transportation.

Sutiyoso has begun a $900 million rail system, which is to connect a monorail and waterway transportation to take pressure off roads.

He says the plan was designed by foreign consultants, and it aims to keep people from bringing their cars into Jakarta. The governor says under the plan, construction will begin in 2012, but he is fighting for it to start in 2010.

Financing problems have stalled much of the project, and there is no guarantee Sutiyoso's successor will be able to carry out the design.

The former general was appointed governor in 1997. His second five-year term ends this year. The city is scheduled to hold its first election for the office in August.