Jakarta was beset by major floods in January. This magazine decided to take a look at the hill areas which constitute the watershed area of major rivers emptying into the Java Sea. We had also done this in Citameang, Cisarua, West Java, after major floods ravaged the capital city six years ago. It turns out that the Cisadane watershed area is in a truly alarming condition. The level of water absorption continues to decline as the use of land there rapidly changes. Unfortunately, while both the central government and the Jakarta administration are busy making improvements downstream, in Lokapurna, at the Cisadane upstream water catchment area at Mount Halimun Salak National Park, the construction of villas is rapidly rising. The owners are celebrities and senior officials residing in Jakarta.
At a height of 1,000 meters, Mount Sari is the last village on the slopes towards Mount Salak. Located 30 kilometers north of Bogor, with its cool climate and panoramic view, the village is called 'Sari' or essence of Mount Salak.
Many famous people and senior officials from Jakarta are no stranger to this isolated area. Many of them own numerous hectares of land around this and surrounding villages, with villas to holiday with friends and family. Some rent them out for a neat profit.
Nearly all of the residents of Mount Sari know who owns the vacation homes there. "That is Ahmad Albar's villa," Rochmanudin, a local resident told Tempo, referring to the pop star. This resident even offered some plots of land for sale.
There are also villas owned by Idrus Marham, Zarkasih Nur, and Harry Capri. Higher up the mountain, near the tourist area at the Curug Seribu waterfall, is the villa of Rizal Mallarangeng. There are over 200 bungalows in the village, in the area known as Lokapurna.
Those villas should already have been torn down, because they are in the region of the Mount Halimun-Salak National Park. This region has an important role to play, principally to hold as much water as possible during the rainy season. However, as of last week, those villas were still standing. So, when massive flooding returned to Jakarta and Tangerang in January, the causes and the blame pointed to the hilly area and its hundreds of villas.
It is estimated that the volume of the rainfall overflow from the open land in Lokapurna which constitutes a part of the Cisadane River watershed area plus the overflow from the Ciliwung River, which hit Jakarta less than two months ago reached 10 million cubic meters. This was despite the fact that the rainfall was only half as much as the rain which caused heavy flooding in 2007.
The impact from the flooding in Jakarta was incredible. Pluit in the northern part of the city was inundated for over two weeks. The Tangerang toll road was underwater as well. About 20 people died, including two victims who were trapped by gushing waters in the basement of Plaza UOB in the Thamrin area. Greenomics Indonesia, an NGO which focuses on environmental economics, estimated the material losses to be Rp15 trillion.
COORDINATES 6°41'58.120"S, 106°41'08.483"E. Ahmad Albar's Villa.
The vacation home of this rocker from the God Bless music group has its own paved road. It is located about 150 meters from the main road. At the gate is a sign which reads: "Not a public road, entry forbidden." On a slope of about 45 degrees, from the yard of the villa, one can clearly see the homes of other residents and the winding village roads.
When the commotion over the villas grew loud in 2010, Ahmad turned over this land and everything on it to the government. He is listed as owning 0.72 hectares of land and nine villas measuring 310.25 square meters. In the official document of the handover, the government was represented by Istanto, who at that time headed the Halimun-Salak National Park Center.
After this handover, Ahmad should no longer have had anything to do with that mountaintop villa. But when Tempo visited there in mid-February, the villa was being renovated. Sand and stone were piled up there, and a number of workers were seen mixing cement.
Ahmad Albar could not be reached for comment. The manager of God Bless, Titik Saelan, said he was out of the country.
The Lokapurna area in Mount Sari village was initially a protected forest area which was then turned into a productive forest, and then it became part of the core area of the National Park.
Since 1967, those 256.7 hectares of land were loaned out to war veterans for cultivation. This is why the area is called Lokapurna. To date, the management of this land is still handled by the headquarters of the Bogor branch of the Indonesian Veterans Legion.
Deden Amir Hamzah, head of the Lokapurna Mount Picung Project, explained how the land was used to plant cloves since 1974. In 1982, when the price of cloves fell, they were all cut down. "The farmers gave up," he said.
At the end of the 1980s, villas began to appear. This was because the Bogor regency administration promoted the area as a new tourist destination in 1987. There was the Lokapurna Hot Springs, the waterfalls of Cigamea, Seribu, Ngumpet and many other beautiful locations.
"By 1990, there were paved roads. It was at that time that cultivated land changed hands. People bought land and built villas," said Deden. This meant that the land was being sold.
Building villas in a conservation area is clearly illegal. Law No. 5/1990 on the Conservation of Biological Resources and Their Ecosystems prohibits this. Violation carries a maximum punishment of 10 years' imprisonment.
Because there has been no supervision village authorities are involved in land sales the illegal activity continues. The Decree of the Forestry Ministry, No. 175/Kpts-II/2003 on the expansion of the Mount Halimun-Salak National Park, which put Lokapurna inside the National Park area, has also been unable to put a stop to this.
Today there are 143 villa owners from outside this region who control about 98 hectares of land in Lokapurna. Initially these sales were approved at the subdistrict level. Since 2010, at the time when the villas in Lokapurna became a major issue, it was enough for land purchases to be known by the heads of the neighborhood and block associations.
The simple buying process and decent commissions make many residents of Lokapurna happy to become land brokers. According to Haji Onden, who has been doing this for decades, their fee is 5 percent. "The buyer and the seller each pays 2.5 percent commission. A village chief gets 10 percent," he said.
A few senior officers of the Indonesian Military (TNI) who initially built villas there, according to Onden, include generals Poniman, Umar Said and Soerjadi. However, ownership changed hands years ago. "Pak Umar Said once gave Rp3 million to clean up a road embankment," he said.
After two weeks of traveling back and forth to Mount Sari during the middle of last month, Tempo discovered nearly 200 villas still standing in that forbidden area. There was the Pakis Asri Villa, Rasamala Resort, Kawah Ratu Villa, Saung Lokapurna Villa, CMS Villa, The Michael Resort, Bintang Villa, Noni Villa, and many more. Some are rented out at prices starting at Rp500,000 per room per night.
Higher up the mountain, towards the Seribu Waterfall, about 500 meters from the main road, is the villa of Rizal Mallarangeng. Rizal owns 9.5 hectares of land with nine buildings totaling 1,412 square meters of space. Rizal's villa coordinates could not be determined. The vacation home is in good condition. On either side of the road to the main building are bamboo groves and small ponds.
Rizal said he purchased land there in 2004 for Rp7,500 per meter. In October 2010, he also returned the land to the state. "I had done some wrong too, by buying cultivated land from the locals. The legal status of the land is unclear for sure," he said.
Because it is located in the core area of the National Park, this and other villas must be torn down, and the land reforested. Strangely, Rizal is still taking care of the villa obtaining permission from Forestry Ministry Zulkifli Hasan. He claimed the reason was that the government does not yet know what must be done with the land and buildings. "If there is time, this Saturday and Sunday I will go there," said Rizal, when he was contacted by telephone.
There is also the Pink Villa. Nearly all of the buildings and even the flowers planted there are pink. It is rightfully suspected that the villa's owner is a woman. According to locals, this vacation home actually belongs to Zarkasih Nur, former Minister of Cooperatives and Small/Medium Enterprises.
In the document transferring the land and villa to the Forestry Ministry, Zarkasih is listed as owning 7.9 hectares of land in four separate locations, and five villas with 438.25 square meters of space. Zarkasih could not be contacted for confirmation.
Do you know Harry Capri? If not, have you ever heard of Camelia Malik, his wife? Harry also has a villa in Lokapurna, right next to Kampung Rawa Lega.
Even Idrus Marham has one. The villa of this Golkar Party secretary-general is in the hamlet of Rawa Bongo.
Because the land where those villas stand belongs to the state and from the outset had been designated as protected forest area, it should be impossible for anyone to obtain valid ownership papers. However, like in Puncak, there are always special ways when it comes to land matters.
Eggi Sudjana, a lawyer representing four villa owners (Ahmad Albar, Harry Capri, Susan Tiurlani Nainggolan, and Simon), said that many villa owners have valid proof of ownership for their land and buildings.
Later Harry denied this. He said he once tried to get a building permit, but failed. "But there is permission from the subdistrict office and a letter of explanation from the veterans organization. The land transaction took place in 2006," he said. Because he continues to pay land and building taxes, which is less than Rp300,000 per year, Harry does not want to part with his villa and land.
But no one is doing as well as Susan, a businesswoman from Kembangan, West Jakarta. She has 32 hectares, on which stands the luxurious Michael Resort.
Located in the proximity of coordinates 6°41'47.158"S, 106°41'15.884"E, this resort has 14 villas. The architectural style used is very impressive. On the mountain slope, the villas look like a rising terrace, facing the forest of pine and other trees on the other side of the valley. The price is Rp2 million a night.
According to Bogor Regent Rachmat Yasin, the local administration does not collect any taxes or other fees from Susan's villas. The local government has also not issued any documents in connection with those villas.
On this matter, Eggi insisted that his clients have the right to their land and villas. He even conveyed this point when he met with Forestry Ministry Zulkifli Hasan. "In principle we will keep the land. Even if the government want to take it over, it should pay compensation," he said.
So, is it true that many of the villa owners in Lokapurna hold valid ownership documents? According to a sheaf of documents and information obtained by Tempo, only one person is listed as having a building permit, namly Hilman Sagaf. In the records of Lokapurna's management, he owns 5,000 square meters of land and a villa measuring 350 square meters. However, according to the Bogor Regency Office of Building and Residential Zoning, that building permit has been declared null and void.
Unfortunately, Hilman could not be reached. The telephone number listed with the Lokapurna management could not be contacted.
After being threatened with criminal charges, in 2010 a number of land and villa owners voluntarily turned their land over to the Forestry Ministry. According to data obtained by Tempo, 14 of the owners did so. However, according to Minister Zulkifli, there were 25 of them. "As soon as it was turned over we immediately sealed it off with a police line," said Darori, director-general of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation at the Forestry Ministry.
The buildings were supposedly slated for demolition and the land to be reforested. But nothing has really changed.
As of last week, when this investigative report was written, problems involving these illegal villas seemed to be even more complicated. Speaking to Tempo, Agus Priambudi, head of the Halimun-Salak National Park Center, said that the demolition was a matter for Jakarta. Iwan Setiawan, head of the Mount Salak II Resort, pleaded ignorance. Director-general Darori said that those villas must be torn down, but the ministry has no funds to do so. Minister Zulkifli had a different story. "That is the responsibility of the Bogor administration," he said.
Conversely, Regent Rachmat said he heard that the central government had authorized the construction of the villas in Lokapurna. "(There was) a verbal statement about that policy to my subordinate, in connection with rectifying the matter and involving the neighborhood police and zoning," he said.
Mount Sari is just a small example of the land problem at the Cisadane River watershed, which is now being exacerbated by mishandling and a negligent government in enforcing their own laws. According to data compiled by the Citarum-Ciliwung Watershed Management Center and the Bogor Agriculture Institute (IPB), of the 154,600 hectares around the Cisadane River, as of last year 27.1 hectares have been used for building construction. There is no other comparable area in Indonesia which has seen land change hands so quickly.
In the area of the National Park, which covers 113,000 hectares, there is also a geothermal power generator which belongs to Chevron Geothermal Ltd. It is located on 273.6 hectares of forested land. There is also a gold mine which belongs to Aneka Tambang in the Mount Pongkor area. In addition to these, there are hundreds of unauthorized gold miners and illegal tree cutters. "According to our estimates, about 27 percent of the land in the National Park is in critical condition," said Agus Priambudi.
This does not include new land ownership outside the National Park, part of which is land cultivated by the Perhutani state forest company. For instance, in Mount Bundar village there is a two-story villa with wood and bamboo floors and walls, sitting on a slope of more than 25 degrees. Local residents say it is Iwan Sulanjana's villa.
Speaking to Tempo, the former commander of the Siliwangi 3rd Military Region said that he purchased those 2 hectares of land in 1998. "But that is not part of the National Park. It can be used for agriculture," he said.
Before reaching Lokapurna, in the Tamansari District at a height of about 600 meters on the slopes of Mount Salak there is cleared land which was to be used to build a housing complex for the military, police, and civil servants. This project was to be a cooperation between the Kartika Eka Paksi Foundation, Sahara Multi Hijau, and Prima Mustika Candra. Eman, secretary at the Tamansari District center, said that 150 hectares of land which used to be illegally sold by locals is now the property of the Sahara company. "It has already been cleared," he said.
Planning Manager of Sahara, Wendi Kusdinar, whose office is near the location area, said that they also have authorization from Bogor Regent Rachmat Yasin to build a residential area with an agritourism concept. "Forty percent of it will be for buildings, and 60 percent will be open land," he said. Now they are waiting for the results of the environmental impact analysis.
With the condition of the upstream area of the Cisadane watershed in tatters, each year during the rainy season, about 1.83 billion cubic meters of water is not being absorbed by the ground. Not only is the Cisadane River overflowing, but so are the Pesanggrahan, Krukut, and Baru rivers, which pass through the heart of Jakarta.
How can this be? Not many people know that in Empang, Bogor, there is a waterway which diverts some of the water from Cisadane to those rivers. This waterway was made during the Pajajaran era. The Dutch built a dam and watergate there in 1872. "The Pesanggrahan water source is indeed an overflow from the Cisadane River," said Jumanta, a guard at the Cisadane Empang Dam.
No. 13/28, March 10, 2013