For City Dwellers, a Taste of the Orderly Life

Surabaya Journal

Source : http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/asia/29surabaya.html?_r=1

 

Ed Wray for The New York Times

Anthony Halim chose a Greco-Roman-inspired style for his new home in Singapore of Surabaya, in Surabaya, Indonesia.

By NORIMITSU ONISHI
Published: November 28, 2010

SURABAYA, Indonesia — Replicas of Singapore’s iconic monuments, like the Merlion and the Fountain of Wealth, stand beguilingly at key entrance points to the 5,000-acre city within a city. Roads meander around well-planned parks, along tree-lined boulevards, and through residential areas with familiar names like Raffles and Newton. Cars move in orderly fashion through streets that are wide, smooth and protected by guards ready to pounce on traffic violators and litterers alike.

The New York Times

Surabaya, on Java, is Indonesia’s second-largest city.

“If the security guards see you throwing trash in the street, they’ll actually tell you to pick it up,” said Julius Sugiarto, 20, who moved here three years ago.

He added, somewhat unnecessarily, “I never litter.”

Neither do many other people at Singapore of Surabaya, a name chosen not only as a developer’s clever — and successful — marketing technique, but also as a response to the deepening problems of urbanization in Indonesia, where every day the booming economy sends thousands of rural newcomers to places like Surabaya, the country’s second largest city, and to smaller urban areas across the Indonesian archipelago.

Products of little planning, Indonesia’s cities are heaving under all manner of urban ills: overdevelopment, floods, brownouts and epic traffic jams magnified by the virtual absence of public transportation. Experts point to Indonesia’s creaking infrastructure — a result of years of mismanagement and corruption — as a major obstacle to further development of a country otherwise endowed with natural resources and the world’s fourth largest population.

Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, loses at least $1.43 billion a year to traffic jams, according to a government study. Growing sales of cars and motorcycles, experts predict, risk creating total gridlock in Jakarta by 2012.

Indonesia reached a milestone in 2008 when, for the first time, more people lived in its cities than its rural areas, even as the quality of urban life continued to deteriorate, according to the Indonesian Association of Planners. In a survey last year of 2,000 people in Indonesia’s 12 biggest cities, the association found that 46 percent were dissatisfied with the quality of life.

In response, private, self-contained cities like CitraLand, the Singapore of Surabaya, are mushrooming on the outskirts of the country’s major cities. Favored by the growing class of upwardly mobile Indonesians, they worsen the very problems that drive people to such developments in the first place, critics say, feeding a vicious circle.

“They’re good, in a way, in introducing a more structured lifestyle for urban people, but there are big challenges in connecting those megaprojects to the main urban infrastructure,” the planning association’s secretary general, Bernardus Djonoputro, said. He explained that the thousands of families living in the developments worsen traffic in surrounding areas and overwhelm power grids and drainage.

It is not surprising, then, that when the major Indonesian developer Ciputra sought inspiration for what to do with its expanse of land about 15 miles west of downtown Surabaya, it turned to the antithesis of Indonesian cities: the city-state of Singapore.

To many Indonesians, Singapore is a familiar destination for shopping, schooling and medical care. It serves as a refuge for high-profile bribery suspects who usually stay there seeking treatment for some undefined illness until their lawyers work out an agreement with law-enforcement officials.

Known for its world-class infrastructure, Singapore boasts everything from an ultramodern airport to an advanced water treatment system. A sophisticated and continually refined electronic road pricing system calibrates the flow of cars through the city-state; Indonesia’s urban drivers typically squeeze three abreast onto two-lane roads. While Jakarta’s chronic floods are factored into daily commuting trips, Singapore engaged in national hand-wringing when drainage problems caused floods in its central business district a few months ago.

To hear Ciputra executives tell it, at Singapore of Surabaya they sought to recreate Singapore as an alternative to life in Surabaya. In 2003, Ciputra began turning a parcel of land larger than six Central Parks into a Singapore simulacrum, now complete with residential and commercial areas, a university, eight schools, seven banks, a hospital, a church, a mosque, a golf course and an amusement park.

Some 4,000 families who live at CitraLand, the Singapore of Surabaya — about half the expected total — are promised not only a shiny, workable infrastructure but a re-education of sorts as well.

“We want to educate the residents here to have a Singapore attitude,” the development’s marketing manager, Pratami Harijanti, said. Besides cracking down on littering — not an easy feat in a country where rolling down the car window and tossing out a piece of trash remains a reflex — the company requires residents to sort garbage into recyclables.

“If you don’t put your trash in the proper container,” Ms. Harijanti said, “it won’t be picked up.”

Pushing a cart through a supermarket here recently, Carol Isbandi, 31, said she and her husband moved here two years ago with their two sons after tiring of life in Surabaya.

“We just wanted to live in a place that’s as clean as Singapore,” she said, “and where everything is in order.”

But not ruthlessly so, Ciputra officials stressed. Chewing gum is allowed here. Singapore extended a ban against the practice in March.

“Our aim is to become more and more like Singapore, to be as modern as Singapore,” Ms. Harijanti said. “But we don’t want to become a cold place like Singapore. Indonesian people are warm.”

Maintaining that balance, she added, is never easy.

Most residents occupy houses designed by the developer, mostly in the sleek, urban tropical style fashionable in Singapore. But many who have bought just land have built houses “in different styles,” Ms. Harijanti said, a practice the developer is trying to discourage. With mixed success, a drive here suggested, confirming something about which there was little doubt: even in the Singapore of Surabaya there is a limit to how much of Indonesia you can take out of Indonesians. Across sprawling plots, some owners had built the kind of gigantic, over-the-top houses common in the wealthy quarters of Indonesia’s cities.

A block from a house with a Normandy castlelike tower was a new home designed in the Greco-Roman style popular nowadays among wealthy Indonesians. Its owner, Anthony Halim, gave visitors a tour of the basement, where the servants’ quarters were arranged around a garage for 10 cars. Upstairs, in the main living area, a bas-relief showed a young couple sitting leisurely as a servant poured water on the toga-clad man’s left hand. Centurions brandishing spears and swords stood guard.

“I like this classical style, and my wife also likes it,” said Mr. Halim, 45, who said he was in steel. “The real Singapore is, of course, better than this place, but this place is much better compared to other estates in Indonesia.”

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