Imagine living in a 215 square foot house that you split with your family of five, which happens to be an illegal settlement under a toll road with piles of waste that serve as your front yard. Sanitation problems, criminal activity, noise pollution and food insecurity are all part of your daily routine.
This has became the general situation in many neighborhoods in Jakarta, Indonesia, where slum areas and illegal settlements are scattered around and under any elevated toll road, particularly in the north part of the megapolitan city.
Life is "slow and hollow" to quote an area resident who declined to provide his name. In Hamlet 13 — one of the neighborhoods in Penjaringan, the largest slum area in Jakarta —nearly 800 households share this situation. The condition of the waste in this neighborhood is unbearable. On average, each household produces about two pounds of solid waste each day. The waste is mostly composed of organic material, three-fourths of which immediately carried off to the local dumpsites, resulting in hills and hills of waste as far as the eye can see.
But unlike some other slums, changes are coming fast round here.
A community cleans up
Darpi, a 56-year-old woman who’s been living in Penjaringan since the mid-1970s, has shown that things can improve. With Mercy Corps’ support, Darpi is managing a community-based solid waste management program in her neighborhood.
The project collects solid waste from the entire neighborhood, which provides jobs for Darpi and three others. Waste is transported by carts to a communal processing site under the toll road. At the site, the organic material and recyclables are separated, then the refuse is sent on to the temporary dumpsite for collection by municipal services.
The organic material is processed into compost, packaged and sold in the local market. The whole process takes place under the toll road, inside a 3,000 square foot space that the community named Rumah Kompos — the Composting House.
“It feels more like recycling my life for better purpose than recycling waste for better use”, Darpi said, smiling, “Rather than sitting in my cramped house and doing nothing, I’m doing this for my self and the community. I am used to the smells anyway because I’ve been living here for such a long time. So it’s not even a problem.”
In a period of less than two years since it first started in the end of 2007, Rumah Kompos has doubled its space to 6,350 square feet to expand its activity. The previous processing capacity of a little less than one ton of organic waste each month will expand to approximately six tons of organic waste per month due to the expansion.
Recognition, praise and possibility
The expanded Rumah Kompos was just recently launched by Mercy Corps Indonesia’s Country Director, Sean Granville-Ross, in a ceremony that was also attended by the Deputy Mayor of North Jakarta , Atma Sanjaya.
“I’m very pleased to see how the community could benefit from the sluggish space under the toll road," the Deputy Mayor commented.
Up to now, Rumah Kompos has collected and treated more than 33,500 pounds of organic solid waste and produced more than 1,470 pounds of compost. The use of compost for home plantings to make the environment more aesthetically pleasing and healthy provides a good motivation for residents to separate waste and compost.
Mercy Corps is now exploring the options of an agreement with the Provincial Landscape Department to make Rumah Kompos one of the preferred suppliers for the agency’s fertilizer needs across the city.
Today, under Penjaringan's toll road, life is bustling and more exciting than it has ever been before.