Residents have transformed the “kampong,” as traditional neighborhoods are known in Indonesia, into a model of clean and green living in an effort to fight off the threat of eviction.
Tongkol kampung was once much like many other down-at-heel riverside communities found across the overcrowded, traffic-choked metropolis of 10 million, blighted by dilapidated housing and strewn with rubbish.
But a series of controversial evictions of waterside neighborhoods in the past two years, aimed at getting houses away from the capital’s rivers to combat annual flooding, spurred the residents into making major changes.
“We want to prove that poor people can bring about change, change in their environment,” said Gugun Muhammad, a resident and one of the people behind the initiative to transform the kampung.
The project, which began in 2015, involved launching a major clean-up by sending rafts onto the stretch of river running through Tongkol to remove mountains of trash, putting up bins around the kampung and signs to remind residents not to litter.
The most drastic part of the facelift saw residents taking sledgehammers to their own houses to remove sections that previously went right up to the water’s edge, with poor families sometimes demolishing entire rooms.
They wanted to ensure the buildings were at least five meters from the river to lessen the risk of flooding and allow road access, something required by local authorities.
By doing so, they hope to prove they have already taken measures to stop the community being inundated every rainy season and prevent the local government forcing them out.
Riot of Color
They built new walls for their houses and painted them in greens, yellows and blues, creating a riot of color in a city notorious for being a drab concrete jungle dominated by dreary tower blocks.
Vegetable and herbs are cultivated abundantly in specially constructed growing boxes; papaya, mango and banana hang from trees; and composting organic waste is now second nature to the 260 families that make up the small community.
Septic tanks have also been fitted to some houses to reduce the amount of raw sewage being pumped directly into the river.