Boats, Housing, Toilets, and Trash in Banjarmasin

By Michael Haggerty

The team from Solo is on the road this week Banjarmasin – the capital of Kalimantan. This “city of a thousand rivers” has for decades been a center of regional shipping for the coal, timber, and rubber being extracted from Borneo. But these resources in the hinterland are running out and so the city leaders are projecting a new future for the city as a center of trade and services.

We are here because Banjarmasin is one of three cities – Solo and Pekalongan are the other two – our team is studying for UN-HABITAT this summer. For the last couple of days we’ve been meeting with BAPPEDA – the local planning department – to learn about their vision for Banjarmasin. Even though today was a holiday, a few planners and engineers took us to visit current development projects through the city.

First we visited a new “IPAL” facility. The city plans to construct fourteen of these localized waste water treatment facilities. Because in many areas there are no sewers, the city installs septic tanks in houses and then collects waste on a regular basis. It’s filtered here and then released back into the rivers. The staff are experimenting with using the treated water for aqua-culture. Each facility serves one neighborhood.

Next we visited Banjarmasin’s first low-income housing development. About 1,000 people will live here and, at five stories, these are the tallest residential buildings in the city. Economic activities are restricted here, but laundering appears to have taken over most common spaces in the development.

We also went to the city dump, which has been operating since 1999, but will close in two years when a new regional landfill opens. About 200 people come everyday to pick over the garbage pile. Nearby, the city is experimenting with a new composting program. Organic waste from one of the city’s many fruit and vegetable markets is brought here, composted, and then used in city parks. Banjarmasin is projected to double in population – from 700,000 to 1,400,000 in 25 years – so the city’s capacity to manage waste needs to greatly increase. The city has a campaign with households to educate people about how to reduce daily waste.

Our last stop was a new harbor the city is building south of the historic waterfront trading district. This landing is intended to provide a better facility for medium-size boats that bring goods and materials to the city. Banjarmasin also has a container port, but it serves international shipping. However, this is an undeveloped area of Banjarmasin, so adequate infrastructure has yet to be built here. It looks quiet because we visited at noon and most of the activity happens at sunrise.

The city is trying out many different ideas to respond to the growing need for housing, infrastructure, and sanitation. The purpose of our project with UN-HABITAT is to create better channels from municipalities like Banjarmasin to the national government to seek support for projects like these. So for the rest of our visit this week, we’ll be spending time with the city’s planners and documenting development initiatives in Banjarmasin.

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