‘Jakarta Bandung’ Fast Train project and the Belt and Road Initiative
The controversial ‘Jakarta Bandung’ Fast Train project (Kereta Cepat Jakarta Bandung or KCJB) is one of a number of infrastructure developments being promoted by the Indonesian government as part of China’s transnational Belt and Road Initiative. This aims to enhance Chinese exports by facilitating the development of the physical infrastructure needed for increased international trade with countries in neighboring regions.
Detrimental Impacts to Community
The evidence to date indicates that it is private and foreign investors, including China, that really stand to benefit from this project. The people living in the project areas, on the other hand, are already experiencing land grabbing, unemployment, marginalisation, health and safety problems, food vulnerability, loss of access to communal resources, and the general disruption of their communities.
The Transit Oriented Development’ (TOD) Project
A key reason for all of this is the fact that the project is expensive and costs cannot be recouped through future train ticket sales alone. Because of this, a further parallel part of the plan is the additional ‘Transit Oriented Development’ (TOD) project – the development of further new infrastructure around the Walini railway station, on what has wrongly been labelled as ‘unproductive land’. This will be integrated with the West Java provincial government’s plan to build the New City of Walini.
The plan is for this city will become part of a JakartaBandung megacity, act as a ‘Green City’ national pilot and a cyber city, be an Integrated Agribusiness and Tourism Region, be home to the ITB Walini Campus, and include a Special Economic Zone (Kawasan Ekonomi Khusus or KEK). These commercially attractive investment opportunities have triggered rushed and chaotic planning processes and large-scale land grabbing, without public consultation and in violation of spatial planning regulations and a number of environmental protection regulations and commitments.
Intimidation, Manipulation and False Promises
TOD Walini is being built in three stages – 1,270 ha have been used to support the KCJB station in Walini, 3,000 ha will be used for the new city, and a further 10,000 ha will be used for the regional development of West Bandung regency. The initial land acquisition processes have been coloured by intimidation and manipulation by local officials, who have focused on the profitable involvement of speculators – domestic and foreign land buyers and brokers. The importance of informing and involving local landowners has been ignored.
The project has also driven up the price of land and property, making housing increasingly unaffordable for locals. This problem has been compounded by low compensation payments to landowners, leaving them unable to buy land or new homes.
Contrary to initial promises that the development would lead to more jobs, the project is also driving up unemployment. Tenants and profit-sharing farmers have lost access to the land they had been working on without compensation. Many residents have found that they are not eligible to work on the KCJB and TOD projects due to various factors related to gender, age, education and expertise, that are deemed incompatible with the needs of the project. The developers prefer to employ ‘ready-to-use’ workers and bring them in from elsewhere.
The Potential for Land and Resource Conflict
The loss of land, territories and communal agrarian resources – such as grass, water and firewood – together with uncertainty about future tenure, all contribute to the dislocation of communities, increasing the potential for conflicts over land and resources. The absence of information, support or retraining options – from either the developer or the local government – is highly irresponsible because it makes the socio-economic transitions required considerably more complicated.
TOD Walini also has the potential to accelerate environmental damage and reduce the carrying capacity of the local environment. The area is classified as Zone B4 meaning that it is supposed to be for agricultural cultivation or ‘non-massive’ development. It is also located at the foot of Mounts Gedogan and Burangrang, significant water catchment areas. Land conversion may impact water resources and water filtration in the Bandung Basin area, and lead to flooding and related pollution. The project area also encompasses several locations at risk of earthquakes and ground movement.
Overall, using the ‘Impoverishment Risks and Reconstruction’ (IRR) model recommended by the UN, TOD Walini clearly qualifies as a project that is displacing and impoverishing local people, especially because developers and the government are failing to provide preventative monitoring and mitigation.
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Cover photo: Villagers homeless after PT.KCIC flattens their homes in Gadobangkong village, Ngamprah, Padalarang, West Java. © WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia West Java.