During the three weeks we were away in Europe the landscape in our neighbourhood has changed completely. Before we left the kampong we walk through almost every day to get to the supermarket was bustling. It was a dusty collection of tiny ramshackle houses with terracotta tile rooves, peeling, faded paint and the occasional rusty satellite dish. Chooks, kids and dogs were running around and folks were hanging out at the market or the mosque smoking and gossiping.


When we returned it was a demolition site. Almost all of the houses have been knocked down and diggers and dump trucks were working through the night to remove the debris. The mosque and the market still remain squashed in between the golf driving range and a high wall built to separate the truncated community from the building site which used to be their neighbours’ homes.


Three or four houses remain on the other side, presumably people who have refused to move. Their houses stand like islands in a sea of red soil with the raggedy scars of broken walls where the houses next door have been demolished. The pastel hues painted on the walls of bedrooms and living rooms are exposed in the harsh sunlight and household goods still remain unclaimed amongst the rubble.


Folks are still bustling around the market and hanging out at the mosque, so what do they make of the dramatic changes to their community? From everyone we talked to we got a resounding thumbs up! I guess that can only mean that they received some sort of compensation which they felt was adequate for the disruption and destruction. Most people have moved on to kampongs in other Jakarta suburbs; Senayan, Pondok Indah, but for those who remain there is the possibility of work in the development that follows: gardeners, cleaners, security guards or whatever is needed.


So what will follow, we asked? Apparently on the present site there will be eight new fifty storey tower blocks for either offices or apartments and probably a shopping mall and a few restaurants. Nice for us!! In the future and adjacent site will be cleared and the tallest building in SE Asia is planned: 110 storeys. Wow – makes you feel proud!

But what about all the traffic? I don’t see any new roads being built. Where will all the water come from and where will all the sewage go? I wonder if development is really progress . . . .

Suzy and Neil

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