Ideas from Diponegoro Unviersity students about sustainable riverfront settlement in Banjir Kanal Timur, Semarang

Takeaways Author: Nyoman Prayoga Comments
Indonesia: Semarang
A settlement in Tambakrejo in Semarang should deal with situation where the residents are at risk of flood especially during the rainy season and when the water level is high. (Photo Source: Diponegoro University)

On 14 June 2017, ACCCRN had the opportunity to visit the urban planning exhibition at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Diponegoro University. In this semester, the third year undergraduate students are focusing on designing Banjir Kanal Timur (east flood canal) as sustainable waterfront settlement based on the problems findings in the area. At a length of 14.5 km and with an average width of 35 meters, the river crosses seven districts in the city. As part of their urban design studio course, the students are divided into groups to focus on eight segments of the river.
The purpose of the studio class is to enable students to identify the main problems and give ideas on how urban design can be one of the solutions to create better development. In this case, so many urban activities are not in harmony with the conservation and protection of the Banjir Kanal Timur River. This is mainly caused by the settlement around the river that tends to grow organically without proper planning. Therefore, the class is proposing the concept of sustainable waterfront settlement to create better environment and align with settlement improvement to achieve better quality of life.

Each of the student groups also proposed varying focuses for their study areas depending on the main concerns they found in each one. For example, one group is focusing on creating resilient settlement and combines it with an eco-tourism aspect. They design the area, Tambakrejo, to be able to meet several targets including enabling residents to promote job creation and have alternatives for earning better income and simultaneously educating the residents to have better awareness about the natural environment. They also have the target of equipping the residents with supporting technology that can mitigate the flood risk, for example through provision of ideal flood suction pumps, river normalization (naturalization), and simple technology for rainwater harvesting to reduce surface runoff. Another example of adaptation design is to create vertical buildings i.e. houses on stilts so that they are safer when flooding occurs.

Vertical housing building design in Tambakrejo, it is claimed, would be more resilient to flood. (Designed by Group 1A of Urban Design Studio Class - 1st semester of 2017, Diponegoro University)

Another group is promoting a concept where residents can have more walkable environment. They design the area, Mlatiharjo, so that it has a riverwalk where there are proper green spaces for residents to appreciate nature better and these open spaces can be a place for neighbors to hang out together.  They want to restore the buffer zone which would be intended to enhance environment protection and utilize some part of the area for parks or gardens. Not only could this help to reduce the flood risk because overflowing water will not directly impact the settlement, but the placement of parks as public space in some parts of the area would improve the aesthetics and also the social aspect.

The restoration of river buffer zone would provide more open spaces in the area (Designed by Group 2B of Urban Design Studio Class - 1st semester of 2017, Diponegoro University)

“During the process, we have flexibility especially in terms of how innovative we can be. There might be a question of whether it is possible to implement the design or not. We understand that our design might not be easy to implement because of the existing land use and the budget needed. However, our mind-set is to propose designs that are more ideal from our perspective. But yes, we should be more aware of the feasibility, not only financially, but also the challenges in the real development practice including the bureaucratic procedures, social management, the real city development planning itself, and other things.” said Wulandari Desias, one of the students.

Another student, Naufal Alfibrian, talked about how he had learned that it is important to make sure everyone’s needs are accommodated in the planning and design. “I remember how the lecturers told us to be aware that each stakeholder group might come with different needs and there are existing activities in our design and planning area. We have to be inclusive. For example, even though there are informal economy activities and informal housing exists there, we should be able to accommodate their needs in the planning.”

The exhibition is the finale of the urban design studio class where the results of the studies are displayed in the form of reports, posters, and banners. (Photo source: Nyoman Prayoga)

This article is part of ACCCRN Youth Program with Diponegoro University under the theme of Resilience Thinking in Designing Sustainable Riverfront Settlement. ACCCRN supports the dissemination of the outputs and materials produced by the urban design studio class to the network.