Lessons from the crash of Batavia

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The city of Batavia was once built by the Dutch with a dream resembling Amsterdam. However, in the end it collapsed and was left behind by the population only because of poor city sanitation. The event left an important lesson that the mistakes in designing and building cities can destroy human civilization.
Batavia was once worshiped as a city more beautiful than Amsterdam. In 1718, even a Portuguese named Innigo de Biervilas also wrote about Batavia, starting from the beautiful city, abundant food, to the healthy environment of Batavia.
Praise can indeed be considered not excessive. Susan Blackburn in her book entitled Jakarta History of 400 Years (2011) states, although there are not many buildings that can be compared to the Netherlands, there is one building that will not embarrass Batavia, namely the City Hall (Jakarta City Museum). This magnificent two-story building was completed in 1710 and decorated with a domed roof tower.
Meanwhile, in a book titled Batavia, the Story of Jakarta Tempo Doeloe, which contains a collection of articles from Intisari magazine 1963-1968, it is explained that the number of times in Batavia recorded the highest record during the reign of Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagniie (VOC). This happened because the Dutch were fond of building artificial canals.
The aim is not only to increase river transportation for business interests, but also because of their longing for Amsterdam. The city of Amsterdam is indeed still divided by many canals.
However, the Dutch penchant for building Batavia with a dream resembling Amsterdam forgot the equally important aspect, namely sanitation. As a result, the environment around Batavia became dirty, smelled bad, and was not healthy.
Ecological damage
The biggest contributor to Batavia's ecological damage came from the Dutch-built canal. In the dry season, when the rivers recede, foul odors due to mud sediment drift up to the residents' housing.
Meanwhile, in the rainy season, dirty water from the canal overflows into the lower parts of the city and floods the ground floor of the house. The flood left mud and feces, mostly in the form of human waste.
According to the founder of the publication of the Bamboo Community, JJ Rizal, human waste at that time was indeed thrown into the river. Because, the beginning of the arrival of Europeans, they did not bring good sanitation habits.
"In Batavia at that time, as in Europe, they used large buckets or cages made by the Chinese to collect human waste. Later at 9 pm, there are regulations from the local government for the faeces being thrown into the canal, "he said, Thursday (10/17/2019).
The bad ecology of Batavia then had an extraordinary impact on the health of citizens. In the book Batavia Jakarta Tempo Doeloe, it is mentioned that at the beginning of the 20th century, the cholera epidemic in Batavia became a deadly disease. Every day dozens of people die. Cholera outbreak also spread to Bogor, Sukabumi, and Bandung.
"There were days when there were 160 dead in Batavia. They experienced severe convulsions and died a few moments later, "Susan Blakburn wrote in his book, quoted from the Roorda van Eysinga article.
The disease that continues to plague and spread it causes extraordinary panic for Europeans. Because, at that time the understanding of the causes of the disease was still low and the unavailability of reliable drugs to eradicate the plague.
The deadly plague could not be separated from poor sanitation systems. In fact, the population of Batavia also met the need for clean water, including for drinking, from rivers because ground water in the city was very shallow and not safe for consumption.
However, due to the low understanding of the community at that time, the emergence of malaria and cholera caused debate. Most Europeans tend to blame the foul-smelling air.
While individual Indonesians fortify themselves with the efficacy of "holy water", which is water taken from sacred locations or prayed by Islamic leaders. There are also those who hold mass rituals to ward off disease.
Failure to manage the city
Among Chinese people, they gave rise to the habit of calling barongsai to tour Chinatown. Because, they believe, the devil spreading cholera is afraid of the lion dance. Regardless of people's understanding of the causes of the disease at that time, Susan Blakburn in her book emphasized that the impurity of drinking water was the cause of the residents becoming infected with fatal and deadly diseases.
The main killer associated with water and has long been an enemy of Jakarta, namely malaria. Because Anopheles mosquitoes breed in standing water throughout the city.
The deadly disease that struck Batavia caused a perception for the inhabitants of Batavia that the city was no longer healthy to live in. As a result, since the 17th century, after peace with Banten and Mataram, settlements slowly spread beyond the city walls.
Susan Blakburn wrote, in 1730, there were an estimated 10,000-15,000 people living outside the city. In the mid-18th century, Europeans moved south to Molenvliet, Jacatraweg, to Weltevreden.
They stay away from the city surrounded by walls or the Old City with the aim of finding a healthy environment and not polluted by dirty canals. As a result, in 1779, the population of the Old City fell to 12,131 because there were 160,986 people choosing to live outside the city.
The population exodus indirectly changed the city civilization that was once worshiped more beautiful than the City of Amsterdam. The city was even left like a grave, abandoned, and turned into a horse stable or a horse carriage storage area.
According to JJ Rizal, Batavia collapsed due to the failure of the Batavia Government in planning and managing the city. Batavia was destroyed by an ecological disaster. "Some say that because of Batavia's corruption it collapsed. However, the most important thing is the ecological disaster that attacks through malaria and cholera, "he said.
Past lessons
From the ecological disaster of the Batavia era, Jakarta needed to learn that the failure of urban planning and planning did not recur. Because building a city by ignoring ecology is like piling up problems that can explode at any time.
Indonesia has also been recognized by the world for its success in changing the face of Jakarta. That period was under the leadership of Governor Ali Sadikin.
Darrundono, in his book titled Manifestation of the Social Architecture of the MHT Project, said that during the leadership of Governor Ali Sadikin, there were 60 percent of dirty villages that covered the face of Jakarta.
Ali Sadikin then chose to pay attention to the fate of the small people by arranging the villages of Jakarta. Although the idea was rejected by Head of Bappenas Wijoyo Nitisastro, he was not hopeless. He is steadfast in making improvements to the village using the DKI Regional Government's own budget, albeit in a gradual manner.
The structuring program is part of the MH Thamrin project and took place during the MH Thamrin project volume II (1982-1987), MH Thamrin volume III (1989-1999).
Although the triumph of the MH Thamrin project was relevant in his time, the spirit of Governor Ali Sadikin was worth maintaining. The spirit of Jakarta's first governor made the village structuring project one of the six vital projects worth emulating for the new face of Jakarta. | STEFANUS ATO / AGUIDO ADRI