Category: Economy

Something to celebrate

The Indonesian government has added another cultural event of its ethnic Chinese community to its official list of top attractions in a bid to lure more domestic and international tourists.

Chap Goh Mei marks the end of the Chinese New Year period, and the most lavish celebrations take place in Singkawang, a coastal town of roughly 240,000 in West Kalimantan on Borneo. About 40% of the town’s residents are of Chinese descent, but the celebration itself is a fusion of Chinese, indigenous Dayak and Malay cultures, laden with mysticism and supernatural power.

The highlight of the annual festival is the parade featuring Tatung, or people who are believed to have supernatural powers because they are possessed by the spirits of their ancestors or deities.

Dressed in the colorful garb traditional Chinese and Dayak warriors, more than 800 Tatungs from Singkawang and neighboring towns, as well as from Malaysia and Australia, thronged the town’s main streets on the last day of the celebration on Feb 8.

Spectators lining the parade route watched in awe as marchers demonstrated their supernatural abilities by having their faces and bodies pierced with sharp metal objects. Some were hoisted wooden chairs, but instead of soft upholstery, the seat, backrest, and armrest contain rows of sharp blades and arrows.

“We are proud that Chap Goh Mei in Singkawang is included again in the tourism ministry’s annual top 100 calendar of events, and has become one of the top festival destinations for tourists,” Mayor of Singkawang, Tjhai Chui Mie said prior to the parade.

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A Tatung stepped on a blade as he was hoisted on a chair with arrows of sharp blades and passed by the main podium during the annual Tatung parade in Singkawang, West Kalimantan, on Feb 8, 2020. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

The annual parade was the culmination of two weeks festivities that started on Jan 23. It has become the main attraction to spur economic growth in Singkawang, through the development in the real sector, the mayor added.

Last year’s festivities attracted 76,964 foreign and domestic tourists, an increase from about 70,000 in 2018, according to the ministry.

Sutarmidji, governor of West Kalimantan, acknowledged the festivities were the biggest tourism event in the province.

“When I was the mayor of Pontianak, I did not allow the Tatung parade to be held during the city’s Chap Goh Mei celebration so that it would remain the main attraction for Singkawang,” he said.

“Pontianak can have the longest dragon dance, but the Tatung parade should be the focus of Singkawang’s Chap Goh Mei.”

Tatung Dayak1 (1)
Dressed as a Dayak warrior, a Tatung made his way to Tri Dharma Bumi Raya temple to pay respect during the road cleansing ritual on Feb 7, 2020, in Singkawang, West Kalimantan. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Dian Halidi, a tourist from Sumbawa Besar, the main city on Sumba Island in central Indonesia, said he had come to the festivities because he was curious to see the Tatung parade in person.

“I came here just by myself and this is my first time in Singkawang. It turned out the Chap Goh Mei here is really amazing and as spectacular as I have been seeing on television.”

Hotels and homestays in the city were fully booked ahead of the parade, wit room rates as much four times higher than they normally are. Some tour operators even had to book the rooms for their clients a year in advance.

However, concern about the coronavirus in recent weeks led to some people having second thoughts about traveling, although Indonesia officially has reported no cases of infection yet.

Hotel occupancy and visitor numbers slipped as a result, although Daniel, a manager of a homestay in Central Singkawang, said the rooms in his establishment were fully booked for the festivities.

“But reservations and confirmations were slow and occurred at the last minute,” he said.

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The Dragon statue, one of Singkawang’s landmarks, was adorned with red lanterns during the city’s Chap Goh Mei celebrations in the West Kalimantan town. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Hellen Chia, who comes from a family of Tatung and whose siblings are Tatungs from the Tho Fab Kiung temple took part in the parade, said that this year’s crowds of spectators were smaller compared to last year.

Dewi Virtana, a tour leader from a tour operator in Surabaya, East Java, said her company took just one group of 31 tourists to Singkawang this year, compared with three groups last year.

“I think it was mainly due to the rising prices of plane tickets, instead of the coronavirus,” she said.

But another tour operator based in Pontianak, Sentosa Tour, reported a small upturn this year. One of its tour leaders, Willy, said the company had about 200 guests this year, compared to 180 last year.

“We see the number of clients increase every year, he said. “Ninety percent of our clients are domestic, from other big cities in the country, and we also had a few foreign visitors from Japan and Australia who booked our private tours.”

In a bid to attract more tourists to the city, which is about four-hour drive from Pontianak, Mayor Thjai said the city has allocated and cleared an area of 151.45 hectares to build an airport and is seeking to develop it under a public-private partnership.

According to the transport ministry, the first phase of the airport will have a 1,400-metre runway that could accommodate ATR aircraft. A 2,600-metre runway that would allow a Boeing 737 to land could be developed in the future.

A day before the parade, the Tatung also toured the city performing a road cleansing ritual to ward off bad spirits. They also paid respects to their ancestors and deities by visiting various temples and houses of worships, or cetiya, scattered around Singkawang, which is known as the city of a thousand temples.

Jelangkung Datuk Suleiman
Rattan dolls from the Hok Lo Nam temple believed to have been possessed by the spirits of their ancestors and deities were brought to pay respect to the sea goddess in the century-old House of Tjhia in Singkawang, West Kalimantan, on Feb 7, 2020. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

An entourage from the Hok Lo Nam temple also took part in the ritual. Carrying five dolls made of rattan and dressed in colorful Chinese costumes, the entourage visited a cetiya at a century-old mansion belonging to the Thjia clan in the city center, to pay their respect to the sea goddess to which the cetiya is dedicated.

The dolls were believed to have been possessed by the spirits of their ancestors and deities, as well as a local Malay elder identified as Datuk Suleiman.

More cities in the country with a large population of Chinese descent have been making Chap Goh Mei, or the 15th day of the Chinese new year an annual celebration. They include Jakarta, Palembang in South Sumatra, Bali, and Bogor in West Java.

Bogor celebrated in style this year, with organizers buoyed by the tourism ministry’s decision to place the festival on its official calendar of events.

The West Java provincial administration has even disbursed 30 billion rupiahs to revamp Suryakencana Street, the main street where the annual Chap Goh Mei parade is held in Bogor, 55 kilometers south of Jakarta.

“This is a show of support from the provincial administration,” West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said.

The story was first published in Bangkok Post

Minister urges fatwa requiring rich to marry poor

An Indonesian minister has called for a fatwa, or religious edict, requiring the rich to marry the poor to reduce inequality.

“What happens is the poor marry the poor and they create more poor families,” Minister of Human Development and Culture Muhadjir Effendy was quoted as saying by the news portal Tempo.co.

“The religious affairs minister should issue a fatwa requiring the rich to marry the poor and the poor marry the rich,” he said.

In November, Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi said he was considering requiring those wishing to get married undergo a pre-marital preparation course.

He has not responded to Muhadjir’s suggestion.

A 2017 study by international charity Oxfam found that four richest Indonesians own as much wealth as the country’s poorest 100 million citizens. Indonesia is home to 260 million people.

Indonesia taps into Muslim tourist market with Shariah hotels

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Shariah-based Hotel Sofyan in Central Jakarta. Photo: Sofyan Hotel

With a rising awareness to promote Muslim-friendly travel, the widespread adoption of Shariah-based accommodation is not always successfully put into practice, as Octine Riyantini realized during one of her stays at a hotel that claimed to be Shariah-compliant.

Riyantini has stayed in two Shariah-based hotels in Indonesia and had a good experience with the first one, where she found that hotel staff always greeted guests with the Islamic greeting, had call of prayers blasted from a speaker and provided prayer amenities as well as a Qibla sign in each room.

“The ambiance was very much Islamic and the hotel itself was clean and well-maintained,” she said.

She had a different experience with the second one, despite the Shariah label that goes with the hotel’s name in an online hotel reservation website.

Although they provided a prayer room on each floor, Riyantini said it seemed like it was hastily prepared and a bit spooky, so she and her family chose to pray in their room. Moreover, the hotel was not properly maintained.

“Maybe they consider their hotel to be Shariah-compliant just because they provide a prayer room on each floor and a Qibla sign in the room, yet the overall ambiance hardly felt like it was Muslim-friendly,” she said.

“I learned that not all hotels that claimed to be Shariah-based are really compliant to the value. If we have to stay in such a hotel another time, we will have to consider which hotel chain it is associated with,” she said.

Muslim-friendly travel and tourism in Indonesia continues to rise, with Indonesia named as the number one destination, out of 130 countries, for halal tourism in the world by the Global Muslim Travel Index 2019.

Service providers have been quick to tap into the growing market, despite the controversy and misconceptions about halal tourism in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

According to a survey conducted by accommodation network operator Airy, 60 percent of Indonesian travelers think that it is important to have Shariah-based accommodation. The figure was consistent with data from the Alvara Research Center, which showed that 64 percent of Indonesian millennials travel and go on holiday at least once a year, providing a market of about 26 million holiday-hunting Muslim millennials.

Responding to the market demand, Airy in 2016 began offering a segment called Airy Syariah or a Shariah-based accommodation network.

“Our Airy Syariah properties offer Muslim-friendly accommodation so that guests can stay comfortably and worry-free. The market response has been good and demand for Shariah-based accommodation continues to rise every year. Our occupancy rate so far stands at 40 percent to 70 percent,” Airy vice president for marketing, Ika Paramita, said.

Paramita said Airy cooperates with more than 400 Muslim-friendly properties in some 50 cities across Indonesia and it has been growing at a triple-digit rate year-on-year.

“The food and drinks in our properties are halal-certified, and we provide Muslim-friendly amenities. Guests can immediately experience their stay in our Shariah-based properties, where hotel staff uniforms and attitudes conform to Islamic values. Moreover, we validate the marriage status when a couple is checking in,” Paramita said.

Shariah-compliant accommodation is not new in Indonesia. The Sofyan Hotel chain in Jakarta has implemented the concept in its two properties since 1992 by removing nightclubs, bars and alcoholic drinks from its facilities.

But the concept does not always appeal to all Muslims in Indonesia. University lecturer Ratna Djumala said she prefers to stay in a conventional hotel to show her children about meeting people of various backgrounds.

“I want to show my children about diversity and tolerance, especially this coming December when hotels are adorned with Christmas decorations. I want my kids to experience the ambiance, too. A family-friendly hotel doesn’t always have to be a Shariah-based one. What’s important for me is the food has to be halal,” she said.

Muslim-friendly travel was valued at $189 billion in 2018 and is estimated to reach $274 billion by 2024, according to the State of Global Islamic Economy Report 2019.

The story was first published in Arab News

Jakarta residents ponder future as city sinks

Irma Susanti lives a few metres away from a concrete wall that barely keeps seawater from inundating her slum neighbourhood in the north of the Indonesian capital.

A few years ago, authorities raised the wall by nearly a metre, to 2.3 metres high. But even that is sometimes not enough to prevent the dark brown smelly water from entering her house during torrential rain.

On the other side of the wall, the water is covered in a thick carpet of rubbish: tyres, flip-flops, used plastic cups, plastic bags and condoms.

Irma sits on a bench in the scorching sun, her 1-year-old daughter in her arms and an older woman next to her.

“We are always on the lookout for flooding, because the wall can’t always keep the water out,” the 30-year-old mother of two says.

The flooding is worst in January and February, she says, when rain is frequent or when the tide is high.

“My husband works here as a fisherman, so we have no choice but to stay,” Irma says.

No other city in the world is sinking faster than Jakarta. Twenty per cent of the territory is below sea level, and that figure is set to nearly double by 2050, according to researchers at the Bandung Institute of Technology.

The situation is most dire in Jakarta’s northern neighbourhoods, which researchers say will be nearly completely flooded in three decades.

That’s the case at the Wall Adhuna mosque in the harbour district, about 10 minutes by foot from Irma’s neighbourhood. Built during the Dutch era as a small mosque for Muslim sailors, it was abandoned in 2005 after it was flooded, and a wall was built to separate it from dry land. The mosque now stands like a monument to a flood apocalypse, its roof half-collapsed and its walls covered with mould.

Jakarta was founded in 1527 by the sultan of the Sunda Kingdom, who conquered the area from the Portuguese and named it Jayakarta, or Great Victory.

Dutch colonial rulers later renamed the city Batavia as they set out to create a tropical Amsterdam with a dense network of streets and canals. Today, it bears little resemblance to the Dutch capital, with hundreds of thousands of cars idling in hours-long traffic jams, few pedestrians and only a handful of green spaces.

Over 30 million people live in Jakarta and its larger metropolitan area today. Nearly all of the 13 rivers that criss-cross Jakarta are dirty and foul-smelling. Apartment buildings now tower where mangrove forests once stood. In nearby landfills, plastic is burned.

But why is Jakarta sinking? Sea levels are rising, and serious city planning has been absent for a long time. The city is mostly paved with asphalt and concrete, which means that water has nowhere to go during heavy rainfall. But Jakarta’s sinking has less to do with what happens above ground than what happens below.

Around half of Jakarta’s households are connected to the privatized piped water network, but others are forced to pump their water out of the ground by hand or with electric pumps. The continuous extraction of groundwater means that the land above it sinks.

“It’s like a quiet, very slow murder,” says urban planner Nirwono Joga, who advises the government of President Joko Widodo. “You do not even see the bottom sinking in most neighbourhoods. This happens so slowly that most of them are not aware of it.”

Large hotels, factories and shopping malls also have their own pump systems. “The problems are man-made and not nature’s,” Nirwono says.

For households that are neither connected to the water supply system nor able to pump, clean water has to be delivered by truck. This is the case for Irma’s family, whose two blue 250-litre tanks are located directly on the protective sea wall. Irma cooks, washes and bathes using the water. One hundred litres cost about one dollar – not an insignificant sum for Irma or her neighbours.

“None of us has a pump,” she says. “The water here is disgusting. Filters don’t help either.”

Jakarta’s sinking is visible in other areas. In the North Jakarta subdistrict of Penjaringan, houses that used to be at ground level are now about one metre lower. Residents who used to look down on the street from their homes now live below it.

“The last time I had a flood, water as high as 20 centimetres inundated the kitchen,” says Abdul Mukti, a Penjaringan resident.

Water is seeping from the ground in front of the 62-year-old’s salmon-coloured house, but he says has no intention of moving elsewhere and does not believe that the area could sink further.

“I’m not afraid,” he says. “Flooding is only a few days a year. The rest of the year I can live without problems.”

In the nearby neighbourhood of Akuarium, dozens of houses were demolished in 2016 because of flooding, but some residents have stayed put, making do with life in makeshift shelters.

The continual sinking is not for a lack of bold ideas among city leaders. After a major flood in 2007, the city commissioned a Dutch company to build a 57-kilometre seawall several kilometres offshore, and artificial islands called Kita (We), Maju (Progress) and Bersama (Together) have been built. But the houses built there are just as empty as the streets, and the island project has been dogged by corruption allegations.

The latest plan to address Jakarta’s sinking problem is perhaps the most ambitious yet: to build a whole new capital outside Java, some 1,200 kilometres from Jakarta.

Under the proposed plan, the new capital will be built in the jungles of Borneo island, somewhere halfway between the cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda.

The cost of the move to the new unnamed capital is estimated at more than 30 billion dollars. The first officials are scheduled to move into their new offices as early as 2024 – the last year of the president’s final term in office. Some Indonesians joke that the new capital should be named Jokograd, after the president.

Despite the national efforts, hardly anyone in the poor neighbourhoods along the protective walls is perturbed by the prospects of sinking.

“I know it costs a lot of money,” Irma says. “But if the government think it’s for the best, I have no problems. We are only small people.”

Gojek’s solution to plastic pollution

The Indonesian do-it-all app Gojek is taking steps to tackle the mounting problem of plastic waste, to which it has inadvertently contributed through its hugely popular food delivery service.

Gofood is now available in 74 cities with 400,000 food merchant partners, most of them small and mom-and-pop eateries previously unserved by existing food delivery services. That adds up to a lot of packaging in a country that is already the second-biggest source of plastic waste after China in the world’s oceans.

 

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A scavenger was sorting and collecting plastic bag waste at the top of a garbage mountain in Bantar Gebang landfill in Bekasi, West Java, where tonnes of trash from Jakarta is dumped everyday. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Gojek co-founder Kevin Aluwi, speaking at an event to unveil a new corporate logo last month, said some food merchant partners had begun charging customers for plastic spoons and forks, and some have switched to biodegradable or paper-based container bags, while Gofood itself is ready to do its part.

“Starting this month (July), we are distributing special bags to drivers whose Gofood order volumes are high. The bag can contain a lot of food orders, so there is no need to use plastic bags anymore,” Kevin said, responding to a question about how the company aimed to solve the plastic waste problem.

The anti-waste initiatives are in keeping with the spirit embodied by the new logo, which resembles a simple power-on button and has been dubbed as “Solv”. Gojek is aiming to be Southeast Asia’s super app offering more than 20 on-demand services, including grocery shopping, house cleaning, massage, laundry and vehicle maintenance and repair in a single platform.

That’s in addition to the document delivery and motorcycle ride-hailing services that were the first offerings of the company when it was founded in 2015. Now valued at US$10 billion and offering services from food to finance, Gojek is looking to make itself indispensable to customers.

The food delivery service is now available in Vietnam, where it is the second-biggest player in the segment, and in Thailand, where the company has expanded along with its motorcycle taxis and car-hailing services.

Gojek is now eyeing Singapore where its car drivers may have to handle food deliveries because the city-state doesn’t recognize motorcycle taxis, said Andre Soelistyo, president of the Gojek group.

“Gofood has become the largest food delivery service in Southeast Asia, even larger than similar services in India even though our population is only a quarter of India’s,” he said.

But food delivery apps have become so popular in so many countries that excess use of takeout plastic containers, utensils and packaging has become a major concern.

The Indian restaurant portal Zomato, which has a food delivery service that processes 16.5 million orders a month, is a case in point. Founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal wrote in a September 2018 blog post that an “unintended consequence” of the business was that it had increased the use of more plastic packaging material.

All the food delivery aggregators in India combined process around 35-40 million orders a month, he wrote.

“These many orders add up to 22,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste created every month in India. And whether we intend it or not, quite a lot of it ends up in the ocean,” Deepinder wrote.

The Zomato app now offers consumers an option not to include plastic cutlery in their orders and works with food merchant partners to help them comply.

“Much as we care about delighting our partners and our users, we must also care about the impact we have on our planet,” Deepinder wrote.

Read the full story in Bangkok Post

 

Indonesia’s Muslims urged to ‘go green’ and ditch plastic bags on Eid

 

Screenshot_2019-08-11 Kerajinan Indonesia craftindo on Instagram “Stok besek Size 18 x 18 cm spesial for #besekkurban Ready[...]
Photo: Instagram @kerajinan_handycraft_indonesia

Indonesia is urging Muslims to use eco-friendly packaging when distributing sacrificial meat on Eid Al-Adha this year, as the country fights to reduce the amount of plastic waste it produces.

Indonesia is second only to China when it comes to dumping plastic waste in the ocean and, with a Muslim-majority population, the use of plastic bags to package sacrificial meat could lead to tens of thousands of tons of additional waste. Indonesia is estimated to produce an estimated 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day, many of which end up in the ocean.

The slaughter of an animal — qurbani — is carried out in remembrance of the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael at Allah’s command.

Regional leaders across Indonesia were last month urged by the government to tell people to bring their own reusable containers instead of single-use plastic bags for the sacrificial meat.

“Alternatively, they can replace plastic bags with wrappings from banana or teak leaves, woven bamboo baskets, or other biodegradable or reusable packaging,” an official from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, said in a circular.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said the use of woven bamboo baskets would help to reduce plastic waste and generate additional income for local tradesmen, while Central Jakarta Mayor Bayu Meghantara said his office would distribute 500 woven bamboo baskets to qurbani committees.

Abu Hurairah Abdul Salam, a spokesman for Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta, said the qurbani committee had started using plastic bags made of cassava pulp four years ago.

“But, in accordance with the governor’s instructions, we will be using woven bamboo baskets to distribute qurbani meat this year. We have prepared 5,000 baskets and, if we run out of baskets, we will be using biodegradable cassava plastic bags,” he said.

The mosque slaughtered 30 cows and 20 goats this year.

North Jakarta’s Ancol Dreamland Park will hand out sacrificial meat to the first 100 recipients in woven bamboo baskets, or besek.

“We will wrap the rest of the qurbani meat packages, which on average are up to 5,000, in biodegradable, cassava-based bags. This is one of the many policies that park management has issued to address the waste problem. We have stopped using plastic straws at all vendor stalls,” Ancol spokeswoman Rika Lestari said.

The Indonesian Council of Ulema is backing the nationwide green initiative.

“We can take this Eid moment to start a new habit by using eco-friendly bags and to change our society’s dependence on plastic bags,” council’s fatwa committee official Hasanuddin Abdul Fattah said in a statement.

Read the original story in Arab News

Ada cerita di balik MRT Jakarta

Tidak seperti kota-kota besar lainnya di dunia, Jakarta tidak punya daya tarik khusus yang bisa menjadikannya sebagai tujuan utama bagi para wisatawan asing. Kecuali ada agenda bisnis untuk dilakukan di Jakarta, banyak turis asing yang hanya sempat melihat bandara, sebelum pada akhirnya melanjutkan perjalanan ke kota lain di negara ini.

Kenapa begitu? salah satunya karena kemacetan lalu lintas Jakarta yang sangat terkenal, ditambah jaringan transportasi umum yang membingungkan dan kurang bisa diandalkan. Tidak heran jika hanya sedikit orang asing yang ingin menghabiskan waktunya di Jakarta.

Namun hal tersebut bisa jadi berubah seiring dengan peluncuran MRT pada bulan Maret ini. Sebuah sistem kereta cepat massal pertama yang kehadirannya sudah lama ditunggu-tunggu oleh banyak orang.

Saat dilakukan tes uji coba pada 30 Januari lalu, wartawan diberikan kesempatan untuk mencoba MRT dengan perjalanan bolak-balik antara bundaran Hotel Indonesia di Jakarta Pusat ke Lebak Bulus di Jakarta Selatan. Kereta berjalan tepat waktu selama 30 menit dengan pemberhentian selama 30 detik di stasiun bawah tanah dan stasiun atas yang keseluruhannya berjumlah total 13 stasiun.

“Kami melakukan pengujian dengan skenario keberangkatan terlambat di salah satu halte, serta bagaimana sistem bisa mengejar waktunya supaya semua jadwal kereta akhirnya bisa berjalan normal,” ujar Direktur Utama PT. MRT Jakarta, William Sabandar, dalam perjalanan tersebut.

Pada 25 Januari, pembangunan jalur MRT sudah selesai 99 persen dan perusahaan kemudian menjalankan pengujian secara terintegrasi. Delapan kereta dijalankan secara bersamaan dengan interval 10 menit untuk menguji ketepatan waktu operasi normal, juga untuk memastikan bahwa pintu platform bekerja sesuai dengan keberangkatan dan kedatangan kereta api.

Pada akhir Februari, perusahaan melakukan uji coba penuh bersama dengan simulasi untuk situasi darurat hingga 11 Maret. Uji coba tersebut terbuka untuk partisipasi publik terbatas, sebelum akhirnya layanan penuh perdana diluncurkan pada akhir bulan Maret.

Muhammad Kamaluddin, kepala strategi perusahaan MRT Jakarta mengatakan, selama operasi awal enam kereta latih yang dibangun oleh Nippon Sharyo dan Sumitomo Corp dari Jepang tersebut akan mampu mengangkut hingga maksimum 1.900 penumpang. Jam operasional MRT akan dimulai sejak 5.30 pagi setiap harinya, dengan keberangkatan dari kedua ujung jalur, serta keberangkatan terakhir sampai 10.30 malam.

Terdapat beberapa gerbong kereta yang didedikasikan khusus untuk penyandang disabilitas, dimana gerbong tersebut akan berhenti sangat dekat dengan lift di stasiun. Selain itu, juga akan ada petugas yang ditunjuk secara khusus untuk melayani penumpang wanita di jam-jam sibuk.

“Secara bertahap kita akan meningkatkan jumlah kereta menjadi 14. Kereta akan berjalan dengan kecepatan 30 kilometer per jam untuk perjalanan sejauh 16 kilometer,” tambah Kamaluddin.

Pengerjaan tahap kedua untuk memperluas jalur MRT ke bagian utara kota juga akan segera dimulai, dimana konstruksi diharapkan akan selesai pada 2024 dan operasionalnya akan dimulai pada 2025.

“Kami masih dalam persiapan. Peletakan batu pertama bisa berlangsung kapan saja, tetapi tidak ada yang menghambat atau menunda pembangunan fase kedua, semua berjalan sesuai rencana,” kata William Sabandar.

Fase kedua akan memperpanjang jalur dari bundaran hotel Indonesia ke Kampung Bandan di Jakarta Utara dan setelah selesai akan menjadi jalur lengkap yang terentang dari ujung selatan ke ujung utara Jakarta.

“Kami menetapkan target untuk menyelesaikan proyek tersebut dalam lima tahun,” kata Kamaluddin, sambil menambahkan bahwa delapan stasiun di jalur kedua akan berada di bawah tanah dan beberapa akan diintegrasikan dengan jaringan bus Transjakarta milik pemda DKI. Tapi pembangunan untuk tahap kedua tersebut akan menemui sedikit kesulitan karena harus melewati Monumen Nasional atau daerah Monas, yang disebut sebagai daerah ring satu di Jakarta Pusat, dimana istana presiden dan kantor-kantor pemerintahan berada.

Januar Wibisono, seorang pekerja yang berkantor di salah satu gedung di kawasan bisnis Sudirman-Thamrin di mana jalur MRT beroperasi di bawah tanah, mengatakan dia bersemangat untuk mencoba layanan ini dan berharap MRT akan membuat perjalanan hariannya dari sebuah lokasi di pinggiran selatan Jakarta jauh lebih mudah. ​​

“Gedung kantor saya berada di dekat stasiun Bendungan Hilir. Saya akan memarkir motor saya di dekat stasiun Lebak Bulus dan naik kereta dari sana. Jika total 30 menit hingga akhir jalur, saya perkirakan akan membutuhkan waktu 20 menit untuk sampai ke tujuan saya,” katanya.

Stasiun Bendungan Hilir adalah salah satu dari enam stasiun bawah tanah di area bisnis, yang dimulai dari stasiun Sisingamangaraja. PT MRT Jakarta menawarkan sponsorship untuk hak memberikan nama bagi setiap stasiun sesuai dengan nama asli stasiun, dalam upaya menghasilkan pendapatan diluar tarif. “Tapi stasiun Sisingamangaraja akan menjadi pengecualian. Stasiun itu akan diberi nama Sisingamangaraja Asean untuk menandai gedung Sekretariat Asean di dekat stasiun,” kata Sabandar.

Bersama dengan sistem light rail transit (LRT) yang diperkirakan akan mulai beroperasi tahun ini, diharapkan dapat menggeser orang dari pemakaian kendaraan pribadi ke transportasi umum, sehingga akhirnya dapat mengurangi kemacetan lalu lintas di Jakarta. Di beberapa lokasi, moda transportasi umum akan melintasi jalur stasiun terintegrasi, seperti stasiun Dukuh Atas di Jakarta Pusat, yang terintegrasi dengan kereta api bandara, kereta komuter, dan bus reguler, juga Transjakarta.

Jalan-jalan di Jakarta tersumbat melebihi kapasitas karena terjadi peningkatan pertumbuhan sepeda motor yang dipicu oleh mudahnya mendapatkan kredit motor serta hadirnya aplikasi ojek online. Menurut data dari Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Nasional, kemacetan di Jabodetabek diperkirakan menyebabkan kerugian ekonomi sebesar 100 triliun rupiah per tahun.

Untuk mendukung peralihan ke MRT, pemerintah kota DKI juga telah memperbaiki trotoarnya yang tidak rata agar mendorong lebih banyak pejalan kaki dan memungkinkan penumpang yang keluar dari stasiun berjalan kaki ke tujuan mereka.

Jakarta juga dijuluki sebagai salah satu kota yang paling tidak ramah bagi pejalan kaki. Menurut hasil sebuah studi yang dilakukan oleh Universitas Stanford yang diterbitkan pada tahun 2017, orang Indonesia termasuk dalam kategori pejalan kaki paling malas di dunia dengan rata-rata 3.513 langkah setiap harinya, dibandingkan rata-rata di seluruh dunia, yaitu 5.000 langkah.

“Saya sudah menyerah nyetir mobil kalau bepergian sehari-hari sekitar 15 tahun yang lalu, karena saya benar-benar tidak tahan dengan kemacetan,” kata Rani Cahyawati, seorang karyawan yang bekerja di kantor dekat bundaran Hotel Indonesia.

“Setiap hari saya mengandalkan apa saja yang ada, baik itu bus kotor, bus tua, bus Transjakarta, taksi, atau ojek. Jadi, saya benar-benar menantikan MRT dan LRT untuk beroperasi. Sudah waktunya bagi Jakarta untuk dimodernisasi dan lebih beradab bagi masyarakat dan pengunjungnya,” tambahnya.

*Pertama kali diterbitkan dalam versi bahasa Inggris di Bangkok Post