FuturArc Interview

Nov-Dec 2017

Tri Rismaharini

Mayor, Surabaya, Indonesia
by Lakshmi Menon

Architect and urban planner by training, Tri Rismaharini has been the mayor of Surabaya city, Indonesia since 2010. Beginning her career as a civil servant, she went on to head the Surabaya Public Cleanliness and Parks Department, developing her city from an unattractive industrial port to an eco-city that garners several environmental awards. In this interview, she elaborated on revolutionising the mindsets of the people and empowering them to shape their habitats to facilitate economic, social and environmental sustainability.

LM: How has your background in architecture/urban planning impacted the way you look at the city and its problems? 
TR: In a way, my background has helped me position my decisions around people. Prioritising their well-being and comfort is an important takeaway from my academic training and experiences in government service. I combine this approach with the knowledge of this city to impact innovations in urban management.

The development of Surabaya into a humane, ecological city has to be credited to the commitment, consistency
and integrity of all its stakeholders. My efforts as a mayor are the stepping stones to a long and arduous journey
in improving and sustaining our joint achievements.

My design background has sensitised me to the need to preserve local wisdom and that the citizens are
invariably part of its monitoring and evaluation (process). The civil servants from the educational, health and
infrastructural departments work closely with me and with one another to ensure the people’s welfare. This act
of negotiation and convincing stakeholders to deliver positive outcomes is also a big takeaway from my prior
experiences with the government.

I believe in the saying vox populi vox dei, which means the voice of the people is the voice of God. Therefore, I base my policies and develop projects in response to the people’s need.

LM: What makes the participatory planning model of your government successful?
TR: People’s participation in the workings of government schemes is not a novel idea, as many leaders across
the world employ it in various aspects of their official standing. However, in view of the development of Surabaya
city, we emphasise on the immediacy of responses to citizen grievances that culminate in real outcomes,
and not just discussions within the participant groups. Three dictums support our commitment towards the
development of Surabaya: appropriate supervision; development for all; and (the move) towards sustainable
growth. As we continue to witness real-life outcomes of citizen-government partnerships, this model will
become increasingly powerful and successful.

For example, the Green & Clean programme that was launched in 2005 was a breakthrough in both curbing
garbage issues and proliferating green spaces in the city. The purpose of this programme was to provide an
insight to the public about the importance and benefits of having a hygienic, natural environment, which is
the first step to maintaining and improving it. The city government worked in tandem with the media, private
companies and the citizens to spread the message of environmental quality strategically. Subject to the
availability of land and public involvement, facilitators provided guidance to realise their visions and maximised
the impact of the green spaces in their neighbourhoods.

LM: Being the head of the Public Cleanliness and Parks Department (2005–2008), what are the key milestones of your tenure?
TR: In the Public Cleanliness division, there was an imminent need to decentralise and designate cleaning officers to several specific areas within Surabaya’s city limits (central, east, west, south and north) and sub-districts to accelerate their services in line with the following programmes.

The reduce-reuse-recycle campaign was a huge step in addressing the garbage bottlenecks in the city
systems. It received widespread appeal amongst the public, with studies indicating that there were about
73.63 tonnes lesser waste reaching the landfills per day. Additionally, the potential of waste to produce energy
and other goods of economic value was explored. This was central to the various policies that came into place
to effectively transform Surabaya into a clean and green city. Changing the mindset that the people have
about waste being a repulsive outcome of urban lifestyle to ‘black gold’ required the initiation from the city
government. Furthermore, temporary landfill or trash disposal sites (TPS) and composting houses have been
installed in publicly accessible zones to catalyse the processing of waste into energy. Two hundred and sixty
waste banks have been established in 31 sub-districts of Surabaya, processing approximately 7 tonnes of
inorganic waste per week. Composting houses process about 964.98 tonnes of waste per day, while recycling
centres manage approximately 10 tonnes of waste per day, thereby reducing the strain on the Benowo Landfill.

At present the waste-to-energy plant at Benowo produces up to 2 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The upcoming gasification plant is expected to produce above 12 MW, 75 per cent of which will feed into the state electricity company. The electricity generated is expected to reduce the load on the government’s upkeep towards public facilities. For example, the Wonorejo composting house supplies approximately 4000 watts/12 hours for the upkeep of the Bratang Flora Park.

As part of the Public Parks Division, we have attempted to restore the allotment of green, open spaces as per
Surabaya’s spatial planning standards. Revitalising city parks, developing open spaces along the riverbanks,
establishing amenable parks with the likes of children’s facilities and reflexology paths, etc.,—these are
envisaged to contribute to cultural harmony.

The ecological, sociocultural, aesthetic and economic functions of green spaces are given a lot of thought
prior to the development of park spaces in Surabaya, with ecological value superseding the rest. Biodiversity
impacts are the main consideration during the determination of plant species. Apart from the aesthetic qualities
of plants and trees, their contribution to the absorption of gaseous emissions is a major factor in their strategic
placement within the city’s parks. Every zone is optimally developed and utilised by paying attention to the local
ecology of Surabaya. Periodically, these green spaces serve as a place for communities to gather and engage
in social and cultural activities, such that the environment would become a part of their communal habits.
The aesthetic quality of green spaces is instrumental in enthusing more users to visit the urbane green areas.
These free, recreational, open spaces are consistently developed with street hawker clusters in order to support
the improvement of the local economy. The prevalence of green spaces increases property value due to the
improved environmental quality of the surroundings.

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