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Integrated Urban Water Management Key to Building Water Secure Cities in Indonesia

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Jakarta city landmark. Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo Jerry Kurniawan /World Bank Jakarta city landmark. Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo Jerry Kurniawan /World Bank

Indonesia’s urban centers currently face severe and interlinked water security challenges: inadequate and inequitable access to water supply and sanitation services, persistent flooding, poor environmental water quality, unplanned settlements, and in some regions, dramatic land subsidence, all of which are exacerbated by climate change. Meanwhile, Indonesia's fragmented water governance infrastructure, is split across several axes: horizontally across water sub-sectors, vertically between layers of government, and spatially between administrative jurisdictions. This has resulted in policy approaches that are inherently sectoral and siloed within the confines of local government. Similarly, without a mechanism for institutional coordination, uncontrolled development has undermined the delivery of basic services that support livability and growth.

Nowhere exemplifies this challenge more so than the Greater Jakarta region. Comprising 14 district and municipal governments under three provincial jurisdictions, the region produces 22 percent of Indonesia’s total GDP and is home to more than 30 million people. Under Indonesia’s decentralized system, local governments develop their own plans for water supply, sanitation, and urban development. But this can lead to sub-optimal outcomes when it comes to managing water risks such as seasonal scarcity, surface and groundwater pollution, and land subsidence, none of which are confined by administrative boundaries.

These factors, in combination with growth trends and existing governance challenges, strain the region’s institutional capacity and infrastructure to provide adequate water supply and sanitation services. The pressure is especially severe during the perennial flooding that regularly brings the region to a standstill. The 2007 flood alone affected 25 percent of the city and caused financial losses of US$900 million.  

Although flooding in Jakarta is often blamed on deforestation in the nearby mountains, the main causes lie closer to home: garbage clogs up essential drainage canals, the result of an overwhelmed solid waste management system; pavement covers what was once wetlands and rice fields, despite the existance of urban planning regulations; and while the city confronts a sea level rise of 60 centimeters or more over this century, unregulated and unsustainable groundwater extraction has already sunk coastal areas of the city by up to 4.5 meters over the past 50 years.  Parts of the city could subside another 5 meters this century if groundwater extraction is not brought under control.

This is the situation in Indonesia today; tomorrow will bring intensified effects from climate change and the continued growth of cities. Climate projections point to heightened vulnerability from increasing extreme weather events and coastal processes – such as shoreline erosion and sea level rise - which are expected to cause more drought and increased rainfall, as well as damaging storm surges that could render high-density areas unlivable.

It is now widely recognized that conventional water management strategies in which water supply, sanitation, stormwater, and wastewater are managed by isolated entities, and all four are separated from land-use planning and economic development, are unable to meet the demands of today’s growing urban centers. Integrated urban water management (IUWM) offers a way to reconcile the objectives of sustainable and equitable water management with the realities facing contemporary urban centers. In a water secure city, planning for the water sector is integrated with planning for other urban issues, such as land use, housing, energy, industry, and transportation, in order to overcome urban planning fragmentation, with the aim of improving system-wide performance.

But cities cannot safeguard water security alone, especially as they expand across subnational borders. Both national and regional governments have a significant role to play. This calls for a multi-level, city-regional approach that addresses the larger basin area and the functional urban region. It means diversifying sources of water and introducing demand management policies under a circular economy approach that recognizes and captures the full value of water - as a service, an input to processes, a source of energy, and a carrier of nutrients and other materials. In Indonesia, high political buy-in, legislative opportunities, institutional developments, growing capacity, and a governance structure favorable to the uptake of IUWM make it an excellent candidate to take full advantage of its potential benefits.

Two new publications funded by the World Bank’s Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), A National Framework for Integrated Urban Water Management in Indonesia and Pathways to Integrated Urban Water Management for Greater Jakarta, lay out a roadmap for implementing an IUWM framework for water secure cities in Indonesia.
Produced in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Switzerland State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the reports assess the relevance of IUWM to the Indonesian context and provide a path forward for reforming the legal, regulatory, policy, and planning frameworks to support its adoption, both in Jakarta and cities nationwide. With a sound framework in place, local actors can design and implement IUWM interventions suited to the nature of the water security challenges and resource constraints in their city. 

Ultimately, water security is the result of intentional action to improve the way resources are managed. In the context of cities, this means prioritizing efforts to promote resource diversification, system efficiency, and conservation, while considering the needs of all water users. 



-    A National Framework for Integrated Urban Water Management in Indonesia  
-    Pathways to Integrated Urban Water Management for Greater Jakarta
-    Indonesia Vision 2045: Toward Water Security


Irma Magdalena Setiono

Senior Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist, World Bank, Indonesia

Gustavo Saltiel

Global Lead for Water Supply and Sanitation, World Bank

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