Maiello: Defeat the Press
Wolraich: Obama at the Gates of... Gates
There is a report in the Jakarta Post this morning announcing that the city will begin construction on a sewage system next year. The first phase of the project will take almost 10 years and only serve about 10 percent of the city, but it's a start. In 20 years, a projected expansion plan will reach a quarter of the population.
I was happy to see the article because over the weekend I was discussing this very issue with a friend as we strode by one of the many canals in Jakarta. The canals never smell very good but on this particular day it was so overpowering I had to pinch my nose to stop myself from gagging. The rivers and canals in and around the city could be a great source of beauty. For now, they are festering streams of garbage and human waste.
I try not to look into the water as I walk by. An assault on one of my senses is manageable but an assault on two brings me into the dangerous I-think-I-might-vomit zone. Sometimes, as I'm walking to catch my angkot to work, I notice men are fishing the canals. I seriously, seriously hope that it is only for recreation but I suspect that there are young bellies to fill with any available food.
So, I am heartened by the fact that the city planners understand they have an issue and are taking steps to remedy it. They need a loan of 3.8 trillion rupiahs to get started (US$412.5 million). Compared to the US military budget, it's a pittance but over here--where the annual per capita income in 2008 was about $3,900--it is an obscene amount of money.
Jakarta is, like many cities in developing nations, rife with contradictions. On my way to work today, I'll probably stop at my local, five-story, air-conditioned shopping mall. I might get Starbucks, if I feel like splurging. If I don't, there are probably ten or twelve other cafes where I can spend less for my coffee. I might get lunch or do some shopping. I can find almost anything I want or need at the mall (which I have very mixed feelings about, believe me). But on my walk home from work tonight, I'll stroll along a poo canal, trying not to breathe too deeply.