Jakarta Smart City – Flood Response


The world’s delta cities face challenges as a result of climate change. One of the main difficulties for Jakarta, and other megacities located in the Southeast, South, and Mainland Asian, is flooding. Of these megacities, 14 are situated in river deltas and 18 have experienced flooding in the past decade. (Ceola et al., 2014) (Brakenridge et al., 2006). In his paper, ‘Inundated Infrastructure: Jakarta’s Failing Hydraulic Infrastructure’, Frank Sedlar contends that much of Jakarta’s annual flooding episodes are not only linked to heavy precipitation but are also associated with direct human interference in the hydrologic-hydraulic systems of the city. Sedlar points to a novel approach of accessing and utilising new sources of data as a possible way improve the operation of hydraulic infrastructures in cities such as Jakarta.


By connecting urban infrastructure networks to crowd-sourced, social media-based data and linking this information and analysis you can increase the potential of each by producing an innovative, open framework for citizen-participation co-monitoring and management of urban systems. Jakarta’s provincial government has developed a Smart City Platform – Jakarta Smart City – that increases citizen participation. The platform consists of a smartphone app that known as Qlue – allowing users to report problems that occur in their neighbourhood in real time by clicking a photo, geo-tagging the location, offering a brief status report and report it to the local authority. Citizen engagement is seen as crucial to improving services, improving transparency in government and holding local leaders accountable.


In community meetings, known locally as musrenbangs, taking place at both districts and sub-district levels, community forums have become a primary path for citizens to express concerns and demand better services for their neighbourhoods. Now a digital component has been added to the process, known as e-musrenbang. Proposals decided upon at the local-level meetings can be submitted to city government through this web-based application. This bottom-up process works in tandem with the existing top-down planning and budgeting systems of the local government agencies.

Smart Environment is one of 6 pillars included in the Jakarta Smart City platform – others include Smart Governance, Smart People, Smart Living, Smart Mobility and Smart Economy. Smart Environment is supported by PetaJakarta.org (Map Jakarta) – a web-based, crowd-sourcing data collection platform developed to capture data from social media used to gather, sort, and display information about flooding for Jakarta residents in real time. The concept focuses on using a GeoSocial Intelligence Framework to explore Jakarta’s existing and complicated hydrological systems by mapping data mined from social media onto the existing drainage systems to inform knowledge about urban infrastructure and the city’s conditions related to flooding and inundation. The PetaJakarta.org pilot study was developed by Tomas Holderness,  Etienne Turpin and Rohan Wickramasuriya of University of Wollongong, Australia who employed the power of existing social media networks, such as Twitter, to provide critical, real time information about the city’s infrastructure and flooding. To read further – Crowd-sourced data harnessed to improve flood response in Jakarta



  • Brakenridge, R, and E Anderson. “MODIS-Based Flood Detection, Mapping and Measurement: The Potential for Operational Hydrological Applications.” Transboundary floods: reducing risks through flood management. 2006: 1-12.
  • Ceola, Serena, Francesco Laio, and Alberto Montanari. “Satellite night time lights reveal increasing human exposure to floods worldwide.” Geophysical Research Letters  41.20. 2014: 7184-7190.
  • Sedlar, Frank. ‘Inundated Infrastructure: Jakarta’s Failing Hydraulic Infrastructure.’ Michigan Journal of Sustainability. Volume 4, Summer 2016.
  • Holderness, Tomas, Turpin Etienne and Wickramasuriya, Rohan.  ‘A GeoSocial Intelligence Framework for Studying & Promoting Resilience to Seasonal Flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia’

Draft London Environment Strategy consultation


Darft Environment Strategy

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, published the draft London Environment Strategy on  11 August 2017. The draft contains a range of  actions to improve the environment now, addressing air quality, green infrastructure, climate change mitigation and energy, waste, adapting to climate change and ambient noise. Read the Executive summary or Full report.

Before responding to the draft report you can also access an Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA) on the draft London Environment Strategy.which has been commissioned to evaluates the social, economic, environmental, health, community safety and equality consequences of the strategy’s proposed policies. These can be accessed here Non technical summary and Full report

Headline policies from the draft strategy include:

  • Green Spaces: A new £9 million Greener City Fund for London to create and improve green spaces to help make London the world’s first ‘National Park City’
  • Energy: Ambition to make London a zero-carbon city by 2050. London’s first solar action plan which sets out the Mayor’s actions to more than double London’s solar energy generation capacity by 2030.
  • Fuel Poverty: A new fuel poverty action plan. This includes support through £10m energy efficiency delivery programmes,
  • Waste: Setting minimum recycling standards to meet the mayor’s target to recycle 65% of London’s waste by 2030 and help cut food waste by 20% per person by 2025.

The public consultation on the Draft London Environment Strategy remains open until 17 November 2017. You can respond either as an:

•    individual – take part in Talk London surveys and discussions

•    organisation – respond to survey with evidence and ideas


Meanwhile, the London Assembly Environment Committee will hold two meetings examining all topics in the London Mayor’s Draft Environment Strategy. Deputy Mayor for the environment Shirley Rodrigues, GLA assistant director, environment Patrick Feehily and other GLA officers will be questioned by the committee during these meetings. A full transcript of the London Assembly Environment Committee meeting held on 13 September 2017 including the responses of Shirley Rodrigues can be viewed here 


The Woodlands Trust has suggested the following questions and answers in relation to London’s green infrastructure provision as guidance for those wanting to consider and respond to the report .

Question 1: The Mayor’s ambition is to make London a National Park City. What should the attributes of a National Park City be and what would we need to achieve for it to be considered successful?
The ambition to become the first national park city is both innovative and exciting. One of the most difficult tasks will be ensuring the protection of existing natural assets like woods and trees, and then securing sustainable, long-term management of London’s woodlands, parks, open spaces and nature reserves.

Question 2: In what ways can the Mayor help to ensure a more strategic and coordinated approach to the management of London’s network of parks and green spaces?
Tackling the failures currently within the planning system in order to protect existing habitats and to encourage more greenspaces in new development can only be a good thing. The LES highlights that the quality and access of parks has sadly decreased in recent years. More needs to be done though to ensure existing wooded areas, especially the irreplaceable ancient woodland around the city and London’s unique and impressive array of ancient and veteran trees, are effectively protected and will be properly cared for long term.

Question 3: Do you think the proposed policies and programmes will ensure London’s important wildlife is protected and enhanced?
YES – if they are backed up by strong policies in the London Plan and; there is a commitment to checking that London boroughs’ Local Plans are in conformity with these new planning policies, and that planning applications affecting important wildlife are assessed by the GLA

Question 4:Do you think the proposed policies and programmes will be effective in increasing London’s tree canopy cover?
YES – as long as appropriate resources and funds are committed to support this. A key action will be a proactive search for suitable land for planting, especially in the urban fringe. This may also require buying and preparing land for woodland creation, a process the Mayor has separately suggested for providing new and affordable housing.

Question 5: How best can ‘natural capital thinking’ be used to secure greater investment in the capital’s green infrastructure?
Natural Capital Accounting is the first step in valuing natural resources – other approaches such as iTree assessments can go further in valuing the on-going contribution of Ecosystem Services.


Walthamstow Wetlands opens: Europe’s largest urban wetland


Image: @stemple_

The Walthamstow Wetlands opened to the public on Friday 20th October – Europe’s largest urban wetland, home to an abundance of wildlife and rich industrial heritage the area connects nature with the city. Built around the Walthamstow reservoir system, located in the Lea Valley close to the centre of London, the area has now been developed as a public nature reserve. The Walthamstow Wetlands is a collaborative project by London Wildlife Trust, in partnership with Thames Water and London Borough of Waltham ForestThe site, which will still function as a working reservoir covers 211 hectares; a patchwork of reservoirs with a maze of paths and cycle routes weaving between them.

Walthamstow wetlands1

There are ten individual reservoirs that make up Walthamstow Reservoir, some of them are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as they have rich bird habitat and terrestrial fauna. The area is internationally recognised for the diverse range of birds that it attracts. Walthamstow Reservoirs is rich in cultural and natural value with the reservoirs’ importance as a potential nature reserve first acknowledged in the early 1940s by Patrick Abercrombie – the British architect and town planner who redesigned London after it was devastated by bombardment in World War II:

“A series of great reservoirs threads up the valley, extending from Walthamstow to Enfield and though man made they are acquiring a charm of their own as trees grow round them and on their little islands – they are becoming nature reserves for large numbers of birds and the resort of privileged fisherman. These areas are a great open-air lung to the crowded East End – their preservation is essential…….Every piece of open land should be welded into a great regional reservation …” Patrick Abercrombie (1945)


Image: Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands’ new visitor centre is located in the Marine Engine House, originally called Ferry Lane Pumping Station which was built in 1894 and extended in 1908. The building was designed by East London Waterworks Company‘s Architect, Mr. H. Tooley and Chief Engineer, Sir William Booth Bryan. It will transform the Triple Engine Room, the Boiler House and the Turbine Room into a visitors centre, with exhibition spaces, education facilities and cafe.


Image: @annareporting

From WalthamstowDiary blog,

“Leaving the fantastic engine house and its towering chimney behind, I headed back out in to the Wetlands and followed the Heron Island walk. The path gently meanders between glistening reservoirs and newly planted reed beds. Gorse lined banks fall down to the waters edge which are dotted with fishing platforms, good places to sit if not already occupied. Oaks and willows stand side by side with pylons. Victorian brick work, valves, pipes and rusted metal stand in amongst bramble and trees. One of the things I really like about the Wetlands is the industrial heritage that peppers the site, some if it slowly being reclaimed by nature.” @StowDiary


Still no 25-Year Environment Plan

Should we be worried about the lack of a post-Brexit plan for the environment?

In April 2017 in a response to a question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, asking what steps have been taken to establish clear objectives for all aspects of future environmental protection in the UK; and when those objectives will be published, Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) replied, “We are committed to being the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. We will publish a 25 year environment plan during this Parliament to support that ambition. It will build on our long history of environmental protection, and set out our future approach to managing the environment.”

A draft 25-year government plan was leaked in April earlier this year but campaigners said it lacked policies. The Queen delivered the 2017 Queen’s Speech on 21 June in the Houses of Parliament which set out the government’s agenda for the coming session, outlining proposed policies and legislation – there was no mention of the 25 year Environment plan. Following Michael Gove’s return to the cabinet as the Environment Secretary in June 2017, a spokesperson from Mr Gove’s department said: “I don’t have a time frame for you on the 25-year plan as yet.”

Policy background

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) was set up by the United Nations in 2001 to, “Assess the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and the scientific basis for action needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of those systems and their contribution to human well-being.”  The resulting reports provided a theoretical framework to understand how benefits can be derived from natural systems.

In 2007, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee acknowledged the contribution the MA has made globally and discussed the MA findings in relation to the UK. The committee recommended the setting up of a Scoping Study to examine the potential benefits of undertaking an ecosystem assessment for England supported by Defra in 2008. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs agreed with the Devolved Administrations to undertake an assessment including Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in order to produce a UK review.

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) 2011 was a, “Wide-ranging, multi-stakeholder, cross disciplinary process, designed to provide a comprehensive picture of past, present and possible future trends in ecosystem services and their values; it is underpinned by the best available evidence and the most up-to-date conceptual thinking and analytical tools.”

Natural Capital Committee & the ’25-Year Environment Plan’

In parallel to the creation of UK policy and research a number of national and international institutions have been established providing advice to governments, business including the UK’s Natural Capital Committee established in 2012 to provide advice to the UK government including membership from academia and business. The Natural Capital Committee (NCC) is an independent advisory committee offering expert advice to the UK Government about the use of Natural Capital assets, setting priorities for action and directing future research.

In 2015, the NCC made a series of recommendations to the UK government in relation to natural capital valuation. Initially set up between 2012 and 2015 the NCC was re-established to run till 2020 to provide advice on the creation and implementation of a 25-year environmental plan developed with assistance from government, business, NGOs, academia and other contributors. In 2015 the Conservative Government pledged to reverse the trend towards ever more destruction with a bold commitment to a ’25-Year Environment Plan’ that would tackle pollution of land, water and air, save wildlife and reduce flooding among a host of other ambitious aims.

The NCC completed the tasks set out in its terms of reference and has made a number of recommendations for further action by the government but progress on publication of the final report has been slow. The final 25 year report’s release has been delayed several times, with a government spokesman stating that it was committed to delivering the strategy “in due course”.  

Nick Barter, Deputy Director, at the Natural Environment Strategy, Defra presented at the recent Green Infrastructure Partnership conferenceSmall scale, big impact – retrofitting and enhancing green infrastructure’. The presentation includes Michael Gove’s comment,“I know there has been understandable impatience that the Plan has been longer in gestation than a baby elephant. But I want to make sure our plan is as ambitious as possible”. Nick Barter’s full presentation can be viewed here 25 year environment plan or click to read how Defra responds to recommendations of Natural Capital Committee.


Turning London’s traffic clogged streets into ‘green boulevards’


Animation: WATG http://www.watg.com/london-national-park-city-green-block/

Could Fleet Street in central London be turned into ‘green boulevard’? The architecture practice WATG have teamed up with “guerrilla geographer” Daniel Raven-Ellison (who is leading the campaign to have London declared the world’s first city national park) to explore the idea of greening the city using green building blocks .

“The mission of this campaign is to create a city where people and nature are more connected. A city that is rich with wildlife and every child benefits from exploring, playing and learning outdoors. A city where we all enjoy high-quality green spaces, the air is clean to breathe, it’s a pleasure to swim in its rivers and green homes are affordable.”

Following a meeting withDaniel Raven-Ellison the WATG Landscape Architecture team were inspired to contribute to this socially important initiative in the Capital. Led by Demet Karaoglu, Senior Project Landscape Architect, the team challenged themselves to an internal innovation competition and the ‘Green Block’ was born.

It’s safe to say that we can all now envision a future with driverless, electric cars and that translates to fewer cars on the road and fewer car parks and car lanes,” said John Goldwyn, Vice President, WATG. “The Green Block claws back space from the roads and returns it to the people of London.

Source: http://www.watg.com/london-national-park-city-green-block/

The team at WATG have developed the ‘Green Block’ – a maintenance-free modular, living building material permeated with native wildflower seeds and containing its own irrigation reservoir. The website explains that Green Blocks can be used in creative ways to enhance the natural biodiversity of London by:

  • Reclaiming expanses of tarmac and space made available by redundant roads and car parks, following the rise of autonomous and shared vehicle and bicycle schemes in the Capital;
  • Adding greenery to existing cafes and shopfronts whilst cleaning and filtering the city air and creating a more aesthetically-desirable city-scape;
  • Cladding buildings and hoarding construction sites;
  • Delineating and augmenting cycling routes;
  • Connecting the city’s existing parks;
  • Allowing residents and property owners in the Capital to create their own urban allotments, replacing concrete front gardens and providing ecological corridors for the city’s native wildlife such as invertebrates, small mammals and raptors.

For further information on greening the city read Arup: Cities Alive – Rethinking green infrastructure and Cities Alive Workshop video launch.

Note: The animation of Fleet Street was designed by WATG for visualisation and conceptual purposes only; to show how the prototype ‘Green Block’ could be used within an urban environment.  The ‘Green Block’ is a landscape architecture concept that was developed purely to explore how design can innovate and contribute to a greener future.

Funding Trees for Health

As city populations grow, urban trees cannot be viewed as a luxury: Trees are an essential component of a livable community and a core strategy for improving public health. 

The Nature Conservancy in America has just released its latest report, ‘Funding Trees for Health – An Analysis of Finance and Policy Actions to Enable Tree Planting for Public Health’ and it states that scientific case for the benefits of trees and urban nature has become more solid over the last few decades. The report focuses on the links between trees and public health stating that recent science shows that the link is robust and economically significant. The central question of this report asks: If trees are so important for health, how can cities use innovative finance and policy tools to enable tree planting for public health?

Despite the large literature on the many benefits provided by street trees and other natural features, U.S. cities are experiencing declines in urban forest cover. New tree planting isn’t keeping pace with the mortality of existing trees, either from natural causes or from clearing of trees for new development. If trees provide so many benefits, why are cities letting this natural resource dwindle away?

The report identifies four main barriers preventing cities from fully seizing the power of street trees and other natural features:

  1. Lack of knowledge: Decision-makers and the public may lack knowledge of the benefits trees provide. For cities willing to invest time and resources, urban forestry science and tools have advanced enough that it is possible to estimate the benefits that current (or future) street trees provide to residents. To systematically planning urban forestry activities to achieve multiple ecosystem service objectives can be found in The Sustainable Urban Forest: A Step-by-Step Approach, developed by the US Forest Service and The Davey Institute.
  1. Public concerns: There are public concerns about potential negative problems with trees, such as problems with fallen limbs causing power outages, or trees and untended parks providing spaces for criminal activity. Concerns can often be alleviated by better urban forestry practices or public education campaigns. The report suggests following the Arbor Day Foundation’s Right Tree, Right Place best practices.
  1. Silos: The responsibility to advance tree planting often falls on one municipal agency, such as a Forestry Office within a city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. As a result, it can be difficult for cities to efficiently identify and harness all tree planting opportunities that might be presented by the on-the-ground work of different municipal agencies. Cooperative planning processes are one way to overcome this barrier.
  1. Lack of financial resources: Trees are often considered a “nice to have” item compared to other critical municipal needs such as police and fire protection, education, roads, and other public services. This combined with the budget cycle of cities leaves tree planting programs minimally funded. Finally, there is lack of funding for urban forestry, caused by constrained urban budgets and cities prioritizing urban forestry budgets relatively low compared with other priorities. Budgets to support a healthy tree canopy are further strained by a lack of funding for maintenance.


The investment gap: How much more investment in trees is needed need to maintain current urban canopy and then significantly expand it to seize greater potential health benefits. The report estimates that an additional investment of around $8 per person annually would be enough to create this green future in US cities. A green urban future is not an impossible dream, but is quite affordable, if policymakers and others decide to make this investment.

The last section of the report describes some specific solutions that can enable tree planting for public health. The solution that will work will vary by city, but what matters is giving value—financial and moral—to the benefits that trees provide to health.

The report discusses some methods commonly used by cities to try to break silos by linking urban forestry to other municipal goals. These can include planning processes such as sustainability or comprehensive plans, heat action planning or planning related to compliance with existing policy such as the Clean Water Act. The report discusses common financial mechanisms for urban forestry, such as funding from public revenues, municipal codes and policies, and partnerships with companies and NGOs. The report suggests a possible way to overcome the funding barrier may be to more closely link the goals and funding of the health sector with the goals and funding of urban forestry agencies. If trees have significant benefits to physical and mental health then why not consider a link between health funding and urban forestry?

The concept of linking finance streams for nature and health seems simple. Those whose mission it is to plant and maintain trees and other urban vegetation spend money and resources to make urban areas greener, which delivers significant benefits for mental health. This helps those in the health sector better achieve their mission of improving people’s health and well-being. To complete the circle, therefore, the health sector (whether public or private institutions) could supply some financial resources that help partially pay for the activities of those in the urban forestry sector.



Brownfield remediation and regeneration

It has been estimated that there may be up to three million brownfield sites across Europe. Sustainable brownfield regeneration involves making abandoned, underused, derelict and on occasions contaminated, land fit for a new long-term use in order to bring long-lasting life back to the land and the community it lies within.

The European Commission’s Science for Environment Policy (2013) Thematic Issue on Brownfield Regeneration concludes that brownfield remediation and regeneration offers the opportunity to prevent the loss of uncorrupted countryside and may enhance urban spaces and remediate contaminated soils. The EC’s soil sealing guidelines advocate that even temporarily converting brownfield sites into urban greenspace and recreation areas is beneficial.

Brownfield sites – often within urban areas with good transport and infrastructure – make competitive alternatives to greenfield investments. Perceived contamination can often make them less appealing for development. Also consider brownfields sites resulting from the worldwide financial crisis — from commerce, housing, infrastructure and tourism. In these cases, contamination is not problematic.

While national planning policy may help ensure that new developments are focused on brownfield land, local governments are best placed to provide locally relevant incentives to encourage redevelopment of brownfield sites. These might include subsidised insurance, development fees waivers or property tax reduction to reduce risks for investors.

At the European level, the European Regional Development Fund is the main source of financial support. Authorities in Member States can also set up revolving funds via the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas (JESSICA). Developers obtain low-interest funds and the interest they pay flows back into the fund pool.

Atkinsons et al. (2014) suggest that the practice of regenerating a site can also create social and environmental benefits but warn against assuming that benefits will simply arise as a result of completing a project. The objectives of regeneration activity and the practices required to meet them may not be directly correlated. Through a workshop exercise a model was developed that presents the logic model demonstrating what needs to be considered to improve the project delivery planning process, signposting the steps required to translate project objectives into outcomes, to optimise social and environmental benefits delivered during and after regeneration.

Bartke and Schwarze (2015) emphasised that land management and in particular decisions between greenfield and brownfield development must trade-off different stakeholder, societal and ecological demands. Balancing development and conservation goals is not easy. Their paper concludes controversially that there are no perfect support tools for land-use decisions between greenfields and brownfields and that to be meaningful the user requirements of decision makers must take precedence over those of other interest groups in the design of sustainability assessment tools (SATs).

In the longer term, developers and planners need to recognise that all new construction is essentially temporary and we therefore need to plan for its second life. The Regions for Economic Change Conference (2010) Re-using Brownfield Sites and Buildings Workshop report recommends the following

  • Empowering citizens, environmental groups and all parts of civil society is important to ensure that policy makers take account of different stakeholder perspectives when considering brownfield development.
  • The need to encourage city and regional authorities to prioritise brownfield sites in relation to economic realities.
  • Explore how the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) can encourage through its provisions, conditions and incentives the development and redevelopment of more compact, sustainable and cohesive cities
  • encourage transnational exchange of practice and encourage mutual learning between local and regional authorities across Europe
  • Use an integrated approach to urban development in its various forms by:
    • combining land uses,
    • bringing together different capital and revenue expenditure,
    • combining European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF)
    • balancing economic, environmental and social development.



Atkinson, G., Doick, K.J., Burningham, K. and France, C. (2014) Brownfield regeneration to green space: Delivery of project objectives for social and environmental gain. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening (13): 586–594

Bartke, S. and Schwarze, R. (2015) No perfect tools: Trade-offs of sustainability principles and user requirements in designing support tools for land-use decisions between greenfields and brownfields. Journal of Environmental Management (153): 11–24

Ramsden, P. (2010) Re-using Brownfield Sites and Buildings. Report of the Regions for Economic Change Conference, 21 May 2010. Workshop Report. AcSS. Available from: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/archive/conferences/ sustainable-growth/doc/rfec_brownfield_en.pdf

Science for Environment Policy THEMATIC ISSUE: Brownfield Regeneration, May 2013, Issue 39

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