Stories from the field Author: M Risky Dwi Sabana, Farraz Theda Comments
Indonesia: Jakarta

The northern part of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, contains all the city’s coastal area. North Jakarta is bounded by Java Sea to the north and this makes this low-lying area very prone to tidal floods. Out of the six districts of North Jakarta, Penjaringan has the most waterways. In the north part of Penjaringan Sub-district (Muara Angke), the coastal area experienced approximately 4.1 meters of subsidence between 1974 and 2010. At high tide, saltwater flooding in Muara Angke rises by between 20 and 50 centimeters.

Besides tidal flooding, North Jakarta is also infamous for its other kinds of floods. In Pluit Sub-district, 1905 acres of land containing 14,784 households is hardly alone in facing the threat of flood. The sub-district is located near the Pluit reservoir which stores water from 13 rivers of Jakarta. In 2013, the area experienced devastating floods which rose by up to 2.5 meters because the reservoir overflowed. Climate change has worsened the situation because of sea level rise and high density of rain, which can trigger both floods.

Both kinds of flood have disturb various aspects of community life, including mobility. In response to this challenge, the community created a transportation alternative that can still operate even when tidal floods occur. People in the area call the vehicle ‘odong-odong’. In Indonesia, the vehicle is mostly used by kids for getting around. In some areas, the vehicles also are decorated with special lights or carousels to attract kids. Nevertheless, the community in Penjaringan has been using odong-odong differently.

Kuncoro, an odong-odong driver in Pluit Sub-district, told us that he used to operate his vehicle as a mini carousel for kids, however since the tidal flooding got worse, he decided to modify his vehicle as an alternative means of mass transportation.

“It’s hard for us to go anywhere when there are tidal floods. People are running late for work or school, even the fishers can’t distribute their fish.”

Kuncoro added, “The saltwater floods our roads almost every day, it’s so inconvenient to go by foot.”

Odong-odong are also used to get to Muara Angke port which is a departure point to Kepulauan Seribu (islands located in Northern part of Jakarta which are popular with tourists).

Kuncoro explains that odong-odong are resilient to tidal floods because the engine is located higher than is usual on other vehicles. This can minimize the risk of damage from being submerged during the flood. He said that people in Pluit began to become familiar with odong-odong in 2010. He also said that he used to be a fisher for years, however, due to extreme weather, fishing became unpredictable and therefore too great a challenge for him. So, in 2013,he decided to be an odong-odong driver. He was not the only one who saw the new economic opportunities brought by odong-odong.

“We need to make an adjustment (read: livelihood) to survive.” he said.

“In the beginning, there were only 3 odong-odong operating within the area, but the demand keeps rising.”

“People who ride odong-odong are mostly residents who live around fishers’ neighbourhoods and low-cost public housing in Muara Angke,” he added.

Many people also ride odong-odong to go from the port to the market which only costs IDR 5,000 (less than 1 USD). The odong-odong operates almost all day long, starts in early morning, and ends in the late evening.  No wonder the vehicle continues to be an increasingly popular choice of transportation. In the last four years, odong-odong within the area have increased to more than 90 vehicles.

Although private vehicle ownership is constantly increasing, odong-odong is still chosen as the main mass transportation option in Pluit, especially during the weekends and on public holidays. On those days, people usually ride the vehicle to go to the port and the fishery market. Using odong-odong as alternative mass transportation shows how the community has created livelihood adaptation through climate variability and change in Penjaringan.

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