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The Asian side of the world

Jean-François Sabouret

Part two. National challenges and their strategies to overcome them

The impact of constructing the Suramadu Bridge in the Indonesian town of Surabaya

Manuelle Franck

Texte intégral

1January 2010

2The inauguration of the Suramadu Bridge by the Indonesian President in June 2009 was a great event. The bridge links the town of Surabaya, which is not only Indonesia’s second-largest city (with a population of 2.5 million), but the capital of the East Java province and an industrial city with a port, to Madura, a densely populated and impoverished island. The modern design of the 5.4 km long cable-stayed bridge, the improvements made to the roads in order to provide access to the bridge and the possibilities for urban development that the bridge has opened up to in Madura, are all advantages for the city of Surabaya in the national and international competition that second cities must engage in to attract investors.

3There were difficulties in financing the project costing 450 million US dollars and issues surrounding the bridge’s profitability held the project back for twenty years. Development projects in Madura, which were an indicator of the potential increase in traffic, were met with strong opposition in Madura itself. The project was finally carried out thanks to a subsidised loan and technical assistance from China.

4An agency (BPWS) was set up in July 2009 in order to develop the area around the bridge. It was placed under the direct responsibility of the Indonesian President, which was perhaps a reminder of the New Order’s top-down planning techniques. Seven new infrastructure projects have been planned, and as Surabaya’s port is congested, this includes a new port for container ships in Madura. Industrial investment and property development projects are already underway in Madura. The largest of these projects is, without a doubt, that of a Surabaya property developer for a “Madura industrial seaport city”, spanning more than 10,000 hectares and including port terminals, industrial and commercial zones and office blocks.

5The stakes involved in building the bridge are high. The significant increase in Chinese cooperation in the field of large-scale urban infrastructures, which has replaced cooperation from the Japanese, is remarkable. The questions surrounding the competence of the different levels of Indonesian territorial authority, within the context of decentralisation, is also a sensitive issue. This article will focus on two of Surabaya’s objectives regarding the construction of the bridge: reinforcing the city’s infrastructure, mainly its ports, in order to strengthen its international position, and developing the Surabaya area.

6As a city for business, industry and services, Surabaya’s unique pattern of development relates to its dual function. It is the port of an island-state, linking various maritime networks of different sizes and destinations, and an important economic and administrative capital in the region. Its function as a port is inherent, as it was the port for the Majapahit kingdom from as early as the 13th century, and it was one of the centres that structured the regional trade networks. These networks transported products from the eastern islands, Celebes and southern Borneo to the main north-south international trade route, which ran from the Strait of Malacca to the west and followed the Asia-Pacific coastlines to the east. Locally, the city made it possible for locals to trade with the Maduran coasts and with the Javanese inland regions, as it is situated at the mouth of the Brantas, one of the great Javanese rivers that used to be navigable.

7These two functions were confirmed during the colonial era when Surabaya, a small secondary garrison post during the last 30 years of the 18th century, and later a naval base and defensive fort in the 1830s, became the main port and economic capital of one of the richest plantation regions at the end of the 19th century. With 150,000 inhabitants, Surabaya was the main city of the Dutch East Indies in 1905, ahead of the capital Batavia (now known as Jakarta). At the beginning of the 20th century, the spatial structure of the Dutch East Indies was polycentric. Independence and then the era of the New Order (1966-1998), however, were marked by a strong trend towards the centralisation of managing the archipelago, which lead to the country being governed from Jakarta. As the only international gateway to Indonesia until 1986, Jakarta thus monopolised international trade. The strict hierarchies in the urban system, due to centralisation and the towns’administrative functions and financial means allocated by the state, have certainly placed Surabaya in a secondary position. However, its business and seaport traditions have enabled Surabaya to share the provision of maritime and aerial access to the vast archipelago with Jakarta, which extends over 5,000 km from east to west. Surabaya sends rice and manufactured products to the centre and east of Indonesia, and receives minerals and both forestry and agricultural products in exchange.

8East Java’s growing participation in globalisation since the 1980s has lead to an expansion of urbanisation and industrialisation around Surabaya, in addition to the process of decentralisation, initiated after the fall of the New Order, giving Surabaya the means to free itself from Jakarta and forge stronger international relations. The vast majority (70%) of its international freight already goes via Singapore and no longer via Jakarta, even though East Java’s international exports are growing from strength to strength. Surabaya is also trying to make the most of its position as the meeting point of two international trade networks. This is to say the network of trade flows between Australia and Singapore, two dominant regional centres for international exchange, a long way from Surabaya, but which are developing their relations with the city. Additionally, there is the network of links between Australia and the South China Sea, which are generating trade flows that are likely to use a second East Asian north-south route via the Lombok and Makassar Straits, an alternative route to the Malacca Strait and the East Asian coastlines. Surabaya’s strategy is similar to that of Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, which hopes to position itself as the international gateway to northern Australia. In Surabaya’s case, this strategy involves significant improvements to the infrastructure of its ports. The plan to build a seaport on the island of Madura, alongside other projects linked to the building of the bridge, could help to meet this objective.

9Surabaya’s main direction for expansion is on a north-south axis. In the past, this went from the port and the old town towards the richer plantation zones in the Brantas valley and the northeast coast of Java. The city of Surabaya is still characterised by the north-south links established during colonial times. It consists of the former town in the north (around the former Dutch and Chinese quarters, where the traditional residential quarters, the kampung, are the most dense) and the new residential neighbourhoods and expanding business districts in the south, along the Kali Mas River. The Tunjungan-Embong Malang neighbourhood and Pemuda together form a business district, which emerged in the 19th century, but whose high-rise buildings date from the 1990s. It groups together hotels and modern shopping centres, as well as towers and office blocks that are home to the headquarters of foreign and international companies keen to project an image of modernity. At the southern edge of the city, a new business centre is developing around the motorway hub that connects the western ring road, the motorway going to the south and the future motorway to the airport. The city’s centres are thus built along a north-south axis, stimulating rapid growth along it. Since the 1990s, new centres (mainly trade centres in the form of shopping centres) have been developing in a more residential outer part of the city. The rapid changes that this area has been undergoing have been boosted by demands from expatriates and wealthy residents for a new type of residential neighbourhood, formed from housing estates spread over several hectares or vast new towns that are integrated into the city, whose location and architecture set them apart from the kampung.

10The direction of this expansion goes beyond the boundaries of the municipality and the acceleration of industrialisation since the 1980s has resulted in an urban over-spill zone in the south of Surabaya. This was a result of the relocation of residential areas and industrial activities to the outskirts of the city, along main roads and motorway exits and interchanges. This expansion has been spearheaded by private investors who are making the most of opportunities in property or land investment to develop industrial and residential zones, which are transforming thousands of hectares of irrigated paddy fields into non-agricultural land every year. To avoid the destruction of these paddy fields, which make East Java one of Indonesia’s key rice-producing centres, and to re-balance the development of the Surabaya urban area from a geographic point of view, the State and provincial public authorities are trying to force urban development to shift towards the arid land in the northwest of the province and Madura, especially since there have been continuous eruptions of hot mud following a probable drilling accident at the Lapindo gas exploration site in 2006. These eruptions have blocked the road leading from Surabaya to the south in Porong. This is thus one of the challenges involved in Surabaya’s potential expansion towards Madura, before taking into account the economic and social situation in Madura itself.

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