Back in August 2007, the residents of Penjaringan in North Jakarta experienced a devastating fire. The fire erupted below a toll road, destroying the makeshift homes that had developed below and causing major damage to the toll road itself. The issue of how the area beneath the toll roads should be dealt with has long been a contentious issue in Indonesia. These areas often become garbage dumps and crime-ridden areas.
The residents of Penjaringan have decided to take an active role in their community. On the UN-designated World Habitat day, citizens and government officials met to discuss the future of the space below the toll road. Together, they considered various proposals on how best to deal with the 500 meter long stretch of land.
Since January, Mercy Corps and the Development of Community Under Elevated Road Group have worked with the people to get an understanding of what is really desired by the community. The general consensus is that the area should be a public space for education, so that kids may have an open space to learn and play.
Clearly, the destructive fire of 2007 can not compete with the fire in the community of Panjaringan to recreate the space, in a more beautiful and constructive way.