Preserving Jakarta's Historic Core

Modern Jakarta has turned its back on its historic core, founded in 1619 by Dutch colonists. A handful of people are now trying to save the historic streets and building from ruin.
December 29, 2008, 1pm PST | Tim Halbur
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[Kartum Setiawan, a museum director] and other local history enthusiasts who want to save these long-neglected streets from ruin face a daunting task. City authorities have their hands full providing services to Jakarta's 14 million or more people, many of them struggling to make a living. City Governor Fauzi Bowo has paid lip service to the need to conserve historic sites and attract more tourists, but there's little new money available.

Mr. Bowo has also proposed tapping private foundations for help and inviting creative industries to set up in areas like Kota as a way to revive its fortunes. But that is impossible as long as the building owners have no real incentives to preserve their character, says Tamalia Alisjahbana, executive director of the National Archives Building Foundation.

Heritage laws forbid additions to listed buildings, so private landlords often let their properties fall into disrepair so they can be knocked down, rather than invest in their upkeep. Many other colonial buildings were nationalized after independence, but the government bureaucrats in charge are economic planners, not culture officials, and aren't keen on expensive restorations.

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Published on Monday, December 29, 2008 in The Christian Science Monitor
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