Urban water supply is a domain of expertise for which “best practices” have been dominated by states and financial institutions that are directly involved in infrastructure building. This leads to the implementation of decontextualized ideas and a transfer of knowledge from one place to another. Current urban water supply challenges and the social and cultural values of water are the background of this article to examine the role of participatory approaches in building knowledge and expertise in urban water management. This article asks three questions: (1) How does community participation help maintain water management in a particular neighborhood? (2) How does participation contribute to water accessibility in the long term? (3) How do these participatory efforts interact with the mainstream expertise and knowledge building in urban water management? It explores the main topic and these three questions with Jakarta as a case study. Specific attention is given to the experiences of urban poor communities in Jakarta in conducting participatory approaches for the provision and distribution of water, because problems in accessing safe drinking water are often most obvious in poor neighborhoods of the city. Embedded in the analysis is the discussion of the democratization of expertise in urban infrastructure. The case study shows that rather than challenging the dominant urban water management discourse, community participation coexists with the state and the private sector and coshapes the understandings of water expertise in the city. Through service-oriented participation and advocacy-oriented participation, communities could build knowledge and negotiate expertise about water management through their experiences. However, at the moment it is still unlikely that these participatory approaches would challenge the dominant urban water management paradigm.
Introduction: Urban Water Supply and Its Challenges
Water is one of the most basic human needs and is directly related to livelihoods and health standards. However, many contemporary urban conditions do not have sufficient provision and distribution of safe drinking water despite the fact that many cities are located along bodies of water and have historically relied on these waterscapes for nourishment and for the economy (UN-HABITAT 2008). With a few exceptions, these are situations in cities that have undergone rapid economic transformation without sufficient economic, physical, and institutional infrastructures to cope with the growing population and growing inequality. Growing inequality in urban areas perpetuates the problem of access to safe drinking water for the poor population.
Besides being a basic need, water has embedded historical, social, and even religious values (Ioris 2011; Laurie and Marvin 1999). The centrality of water in livelihoods makes it meaningful in everyday lives. The everyday practice of fetching water from sources away from home forces people to structure their lives around the hours and the routes taken to obtain water. In the city, water sources and routes through pipes and canals are the domain of the state, for delivering water in bulk to homes. Individual and community wells may coexist with these infrastructures, although they may also be regulated by the state or are threatened by development-induced groundwater depletion and pollution.
UN-HABITAT has predicted that 60 percent of the world's population will be urbanized in the next two decades, and the challenge of providing and maintaining safe drinking water for citizens continues to be prevalent. Despite UNICEF's analysis (2006) that the progress of providing a safe drinking water supply was on track to halve the population without access to improved drinking water by 2015, the same report also indicated that there were still 402 million people without access to safe drinking water in the East Asia/Pacific region, compared to 1 billion worldwide. In places where access to water is inadequately serviced by the state, other actors fulfill the role to provide and distribute water.
Contemporary urban water supply challenges and the social and cultural values of water brought me to examine the role of participatory approaches in building knowledge and negotiating expertise in urban water management. In this article, I also ask three questions: (1) How does community participation/organization help maintain water management? (2) How does this contribute to water accessibility in the long term? (3) How do these participatory efforts interact with the mainstream expertise and knowledge building in urban water management? The main topic and these three questions are explored with Jakarta as a case study. For this article, I look specifically at the experiences of the urban poor communities in Jakarta in conducting participatory approaches for the provision and distribution of water, because problems in accessing safe drinking water are often most obvious in the poor neighborhoods. Embedded in the analysis is the discussion on the democratization of expertise in urban infrastructure.
This article is supported by research that has been conducted since 2009 as part of the research project titled “Community Participation in Urban Water Management” at the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. The research relies on interviews of water governance actors in Jakarta, which include various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), representatives of PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (PALYJA) and Aetra as water supply concessionaires in Jakarta, and representatives of Perusahaan Air Minum Jakarta Raya (PAM Jaya), the public water utility of the city. Twenty interviews have been conducted in Jakarta that contribute to the analysis in this article. Data from these interviews are substantiated through observations in two communities—Rawa Bebek and Muara Baru—in which participatory water supply approaches were conducted. The two communities were chosen based on the existence of participatory water supply approaches and the involvement of the residents in water supply advocacy. The findings contribute to the understanding of civic epistemologies in unequal urban landscapes, particularly in recognizing how democratization of knowledge and expertise influences societal changes in the city.
Expertise in Urban Water Management
Water Infrastructure and Business
In spite of its cultural and social meanings, contemporary urban water management mostly focuses on infrastructure, for which engineering and financing dominate the discourse. Indeed, water management in reality is closely linked with water infrastructure projects that have historically been associated with technological advancement and even to civilization. Accounts of the engineering sophistication of ancient Rome often refer to its aqueduct system that brought water from its distant, natural, nonurban sources to cities. Water technologies are one of the identifiers of the modern city (Gandy 2004), and water provision and distribution are often linked to government performance in many cities. For example, New York built its extensive public water system as a fulfillment of the “hydro-social contract” by the city government for the citizens; it was a manifestation of authority, effectiveness, and progress after a cholera outbreak in mid-nineteenth century (Gandy 2003).
The focus on infrastructure in urban water management is perpetuated globally through financing practices for infrastructure projects in cities of developing countries that are often dominated by large loans from development banks (Carroll 2010). These loans come with exchanges of expertise and best practices to direct the project design. Furthermore, the socioeconomic system of urban water that these financial institutions promote mirrors that of the institutions themselves, with emphases on full cost recovery and economic management (Goldman 2005). Repeated references to the 1992 Dublin Principles that acknowledged water as an economic good have been a common practice by multilateral financing institutions to push for a greater role of private companies to presumably make up for municipal authorities that are incapable of efficient management (Finger and Allouche 2002; Birkenholtz 2010; Bakker 2010).
The recommended policies actively produced “subjects, knowledge, and perceived truths,” perpetuating the domination of political and economic powers in global recognition of best practices in urban water management (Lather 2010; Fischer 1993). Based on the assumption that private companies are more efficient, these companies are socially constructed as experts in managing urban water, as they are able to “master the language of a specialist domain” even when they do not have practical competence in a particular setting (Collins and Evans 2007: 14). At the same time, water is an object that is often difficult to “fully commodify and privatize” because of its infrastructural challenges and physical attributes of being one of life's basic necessities, which often lead to various challenges to water privatization (Meehan 2014: 216; Bakker 2010, 2012).
The historical and perpetual domination of expertise and professional discourses has suffocated civic epistemologies of water in the city because they distanced urban water management from the reality of water as experienced, used, and consumed every day in urban residences and neighborhoods, socially and culturally. Rarely do urban water management discourses in practice reflect democratized ideals of decision making and planning. In fact, the management of a city-scale piped water network usually becomes a monopoly of a handful of people who control the system and transplant one management practice from one place to another. This parallels Sheila Jasanoff's critique of abstraction in science as wrenching phenomena “out of their specific contexts, mak[ing] parts meaningful independently of wholes, and recombin[ing] segments in ways that transgress boundaries fixed by law, custom, tradition or institutional practice” (2010: 234). In the case of water, the engineering and economic expertise that dominates urban water management is a result of a social process that is subjected to layers of status and power, while the repeated framing of universalist “best practices” through the global financial institutions still continues. Water infrastructure and municipal governance are the critical dynamics that propel the growth of a city, and the expertise goes even beyond the engineering and design to the economics and intricacies of political processes (Gandy 2004: 367; Swyngedouw 2005, 2006). As a result, “market environmentalism,” which is the “virtuous fusion of economic growth, efficiency, and environmental conservation” (Bakker 2007), becomes the paradigm in the knowledge of and expertise in good urban water management, which would eventually combine with interpretations of participatory processes to support the mainstream paradigm.
Technocratic and economic dominance in urban water management by the state and in some cases the private sector, however, does not entirely eradicate potentials for civic epistemologies to exist. In many cases of urban water provision and distribution, grounded practices coexist and coproduce water knowledge. When the state and the private sector operator are not always reliable, alternative provision and distribution strategies continue to coshape urban knowledge on water management. Katie M. Meehan has argued that water itself as an object has power, as it becomes a “power broker” that shapes the relationship between state and society (2014: 223).
Expertise and Participatory Approaches in Urban Water Management
Civic epistemologies are social and political constructions and applications of knowledge that affect policy implementation in the society (Miller 2008). As a physical material in the city that is inseparable from the everyday lives of the residents, water straddles the line between large-scale infrastructure development and everyday social relationships in its provision and distribution. Urban water management and infrastructures, as parts of the management and development of the city as a whole, are subjected to the domination of political powers and finances that also influence other massive development projects in the city. Good water provision and distribution systems and management in the city represent the municipal authority's ability to control the urban landscape and thus obtain approval from its constituency (Gandy 2003).
Civic epistemologies have repeatedly intruded in the mainstream urban development paradigm through citizen participation, such as what is demonstrated by projects under the Kampung Improvement Project in Indonesia, participatory settlement upgrading in the Philippines, and more recently the Community Organizations Development Institute in Thailand. The incorporation of citizen participation in urban development signifies recognition of grassroots knowledge as an important ingredient. This is indicative of a democratization of knowledge, a parallel to participatory democracy in general (Fischer 1993; Raza, Kausar, and Paul 2007). Various best practices development stories feature community participation. In water management, participation usually manifests through the formation of CBOs that are tasked with monitoring operation and maintenance of the water system. Participation is also a key element in the concepts of integrated water resource management (IWRM) and integrated urban water management (IUWM), which are both promoted by the same financing institutions as the ones promoting private, corporate management of water systems and engineering projects. Open and participatory platforms are promoted in both IWRM and IUWM, with nonprofit organizations playing important roles in facilitating citizen participation.
The celebration of citizen participation in these official discourses does not automatically acknowledge citizen expertise in urban water management, for three reasons. First, the rationales for participatory approaches in water supply are mostly about (a) the lack of legal status on the land, so that the community that wishes to establish a water system needs to find alternative ways; (b) the fact that community members know their neighbors better than the water utility company does and therefore are more suitable to convince the residents to pay for water services; and (c) assistance for the urban poor. Several scholars and practitioners have noted the potential of promoting good governance because community members can monitor implementations better compared to outsiders (McIntosh 2003; Araral 2008). For this purpose, there are usually trainings sessions for a CBO that is formed for a particular participatory water project to increase its “capacity” to manage the system. In other words, participatory approaches in urban water supply do not necessarily put citizens in the position of experts in water supply but are fields where other experts can be involved to distribute their knowledge.
Second, participatory approaches are usually applied for specific neighborhoods and not implemented for the whole city. This means that citizens' knowledge of that particular neighborhood is used as a stop-gap measure rather than acknowledged as best-practice knowledge on the city scale. The scale of these participatory projects is often insufficient to challenge the domain of expertise that responds to the city scale, which corresponds with the geographical administrative boundaries of urban water officials (Kinchy 2014).
Third, participatory approaches are limited to the urban poor, which may resemble charity rather than acknowledging expertise. With a democratic approach applied to only the low-income segment of the society, participation becomes associated with the marginal and not for the whole city. Nonparticipation, therefore, becomes a privilege.
The measures of success of the results of these participatory approaches are also pragmatically based on specific quantitative measures rather than societal development as a whole. For example, the Asian Development Bank promoted a participatory approach through community-driven development as a development mechanism that empowers the beneficiaries through devolution of control over decisions on planning and investments, but success criteria are often quantitative, in terms of water delivered through the pipes and measured through water meters, rather than the results of community empowerment (ADB 2006).
The fascination of urban development trajectories, including water infrastructures, toward complex systems and technologies in mega projects makes it more difficult to challenge by any community efforts that cover specific neighborhoods rather than covering a whole city with participatory approaches. Nonetheless, the existence of megacities such as Jakarta in a developing country like Indonesia, in which maneuvers in political and economic processes on various levels of society are increasingly negotiable and relational, demands further inquiry into possibilities that might occur in terms of community-based efforts and expertise in improving infrastructure services such as water. When shifting equilibriums of political and economic powers continue to take place, complex systems and technologies are still fascinating but at the same time are questionable for implementation (Simone 2013). Research agendas of science and technology are now being scrutinized not only by industrial funders but also by the grass roots through nonprofit organizations and consumer groups (Hess 2007). Furthermore, social movements in communities are not just operating locally but are also entrenched in networks in different scales, from the urban to the global. The void of an authoritative municipal government and the lack of reliable city water services become a prospect for alternative knowledge and expertise to come forward. In general, participatory knowledge making could potentially reshape political institutions and the broader knowledge (Hisschemöller 2005), but in the case of water the state-society relationship is consistently renegotiated (Meehan 2014). This alternative knowledge and expertise, rather than overturning the mainstream paradigm in delivering water as a daily necessity, are coshaping the knowledge and expertise by coexisting with the mainstream development trajectory by forming associations and by attributing new meanings on urban water supply.
Urban Water Management in Jakarta
Water services in Jakarta underwent privatization in 1997 that divided services into two zones. The West Zone of Jakarta was given to Suez Environnement, a French-based company, and the East Zone to RWE Thames, a British company that was subsequently bought by the current operator, PT Aetra Air Jakarta (see Fig. 1). Jakarta's water privatization followed the usual justification that the private sector would have more capacity—knowledge and expertise—in managing a water company in order to generate profit. Cost recovery was one of the ideal goals of privatization. The bad performance of PAM Jaya, the public water utility company that previously managed the water supply system, was blamed on the lack of capacity to recover costs (ADB 2013). The justification was in line with the general global argument that promoted private-sector participation in urban water management.
Urban water provision and distribution in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, have not performed well since the inception of a piped water network in the Dutch colonial period. Exclusive provision of piped water supply mostly for European neighborhoods at the time let the urban poor and indigenous settlements be served through public hydrants and water vendors. The racially segregated availability of water in homes also led to inequality in water consumption: while the Europeans on average consumed 140 liters per capita per day, the Chinese and other non-Indonesian Asians consumed only 100 liters per capita per day. The Europeans were 90 percent covered by piped water supply, while the Chinese and other non-Indonesian Asians were only 60 percent covered (Kooy 2010). However, the numbers for the natives were even lower at a documented level of consumption of 30 liters per capita per day and 30 percent coverage (Fournier et al. 2010). After independence, there were expansions of the piped water network from the colonial system, but mostly to upper-class residential areas and high-rise developments that matched the image of modernist monuments (Bakker et al. 2006). PAM Jaya, the public water supply company in Jakarta, was established in 1968 but was unable to alleviate the marginalization of the poor in regard to water access. Urban villages housed 80 percent of the population in the 1970s, covering 60 percent of Jakarta's land area, but only 10 percent of the population there had access to piped water (Bakker et al. 2006). When the population of the city reached 8 million in 1990, the service coverage was somewhere between 38 and 42 percent, with water loss in the pipe system reaching 53 to 57 percent due to leaks and illegal connections (ADB 2007). The inequality of water access based on ethnicity and wealth indicated power relations in the making of both the city and water infrastructures, which eventually construct the dominant trajectory of water expertise in the city (Swyngedouw 2004).
The private sector, which was hoped would bring its expertise to repair the system, had not achieved what was expected. The official estimate of household connections in 2005, according to the statistics bureau Badan Pusat Statistik, was still between 46 and 56 percent. Unofficial estimates predicted that in fact it was only 25 percent, since there were many informal settlements that might not have been captured in the official figures (Bakker et al. 2006). Eventually, there was an increase in the network coverage, but it was only just above 60 percent in January 2015, while the concession contracts for both companies stipulated the target of 80 percent for that year. The network coverage was also far below expectations to reach the targeted 100 percent coverage in twenty-five years of operation. The progress is even slower for poor communities. Even when water rates for the poor are significantly cheaper than those for the middle class and above (Table 1), many of the poor may not even have legal property rights that were required to have a water connection. Existing water provisions in poor communities in Jakarta's self-built settlements are mostly through pushcarts, resellers of piped water, and water carriers that sourced their water from public hydrants and piped water (McIntosh 2003). Small-scale water providers are playing a much greater role in urban poor communities of Jakarta (2003).
The People's Coalition for the Right to Water (Koalisi Rakyat untuk Hak Air, KRuHA), an NGO against privatization, coordinated a lawsuit by building a coalition that consisted of residents, trade unions, and activists to annul the water concession contracts of the two operators and was ruled favorably by the Central Jakarta District Court in March 2015. The court challenge shows that the paradigm that the private sector is the expert in managing water companies is not totally convincing for all the citizens and actors in Jakarta's water supply issue. The trust in the knowledge and expertise of the private sector was dwindling for two reasons: (1) the belief that water as a public good cannot be managed for profit making and (2) the perceivably low performance of the two operators that corroborates the first reason.
Until April 2016, the two companies are still operating in Jakarta. Suez filed an appeal to the court ruling two weeks afterward (Reuters 2015). But it was also Suez that attempted in 2013 to sell its shares to Manila Water, a water utility company based in the namesake Philippine city. Manila Water is painted by water scholars and the Asian Development Bank as a high-performing private water operator, affirming its knowledge and expertise to operate another water utility company in the region.
Community Participation in Urban Water Management
Participatory Approaches in Urban Water Management
Participatory approaches in expanding water services to the poor have entered the development financing agenda, more so for rural water than for urban water, both in the construction of the infrastructure and at the stages of operation and maintenance. Community participation has often been treated as a panacea to development problems, especially to overcome a development mismatch and the people's subsequent resistance, as well as to increase transparency and accountability. In participatory schemes, partnerships between government and communities resulted in the growth of pertinent NGOs. “Yet for many community organizations, this emerging policy space is creating contradictions and tensions that increase the complexity of local service systems” (Keevers, Lesley, and Sykes 2008: 460). These contradictions include the pressure to compete with for-profit agencies while maintaining nonprofit status and the responsibility to report to funders.
While empirical studies hail the participatory approach as more sustainable in terms of operation and maintenance (Araral and Holmemo 2007), the main challenge is to institutionalize the participatory system in the community to ensure its intergenerational sustainability. In the participatory Kampung Improvement Project (KIP), funded by the World Bank in three major Indonesian cities (Jakarta, Surabaya, and Denpasar) from 1972 to 1985, the levels of operation and maintenance varied from one place to another, and monitoring and evaluation were not conducted. Another challenge for any improvement program in urban poor communities is that they would increase property values, thus making the areas more prone to gentrification. This was also the underlying concern that preoccupied KIP. Forty percent of KIP communities in Jakarta got demolished for more expensive real estate developments in less than 10 years of KIP completion (World Bank 1995). The World Bank argued that these displaced communities still achieved a 12 percent economic rate of return despite the short years of enjoying the improvements. But the fact that these communities were eventually displaced signifies that in Jakarta's development trajectory these community-based infrastructure upgrading projects were not as worthy as the new, bigger developments that are taking them over. Thus, the support for participatory development approaches by the financial institutions in this case became a pathway to mainstream development projects to take over the land and reestablish the regime of development expertise by big property developers.
To understand how community participation can help to maintain water management and contribute to the sustainability of water connection, it is useful to recognize different types of community organizations and how they work. The wide range of participatory roles of the people in urban water provision and distribution could span from collaboration to negotiation to confrontation. These patterns define the relationship within the three sectors in water provision: the government or the public sector, the private sector corporation, and the people. Meanwhile, there are also many levels of participation. One of the most cited is the concept of the “ladder of citizen participation” (Arnstein 1969), which related the various levels of participation to the power structure in the city or in the country, from nonparticipation to tokenism to citizen power.
The forms of community participation beyond tokenism in urban water management in Jakarta can be categorized in two ways: based on the levels of organizations and based on activities. The first, based on the levels of organizations, focuses on the types of civil society organizations that are involved in water management. Most commonly, on the ground level, there would be a CBO that deals with the day-to-day operation of the water system. Besides CBOs in specific areas, there would be local-level NGOs that can function as a coordinator of several CBOs. On a broader level, there are NGOs that operate on the city or the national level, and there are also international NGOs (INGOs). This classification does not limit the reach of these organizations, because even an INGO can have a direct working relationship with people on the ground. However, the scales of these organizations' reach define them in specific categories of experts.
The second way of categorizing is looking at their activities, regardless of the level or scale of the organization. Based on activities, both the water activists and the water operators acknowledge two broad subcategories: service-oriented organizations and advocacy-oriented organizations. Service-oriented organizations focus on delivering services, whereas the advocacy-oriented organizations focus on paradigms and principles of water supply services. These two categories will be discussed further in the next section.
Experts in Participatory Approaches in Urban Water Management
The idea of involving community members in water provision and distribution for the poor had been accepted by water utility companies in Jakarta as a formula for successful delivery, although the measure of success can still be debated. Water provision for urban poor communities had historically been conducted in relatively small scales. Between 1960 and 1990, KIP was more widely implemented, but recent approaches for community-based water infrastructure improvement tend to be more localized in selected communities.
Contemporary participatory approaches in Jakarta's water provision and distribution can be analyzed through how they integrate residents' knowledge into the system. The first form of participatory approach in water supply services is the water kiosk. Currently, both water companies have the water kiosk program, through which water is delivered to communities by truck to the kiosks. The operator of a water kiosk can sell the water to the poor community at a rate that is agreed on between PALYJA or Aetra and the operator. Through this model, the operator of the water kiosk, as a resident of the community, is acknowledged by the water supply company as the expert in distributing water. This model also recognizes negotiation between the water service company and the water kiosk operator in pricing water. Although this negotiation is limited by the standard water rate that is decided by the city government, the relationship acknowledges the importance of the role of the water kiosk operator as part of the profit-making selling of water.
The second scheme is the master meter, which requires formation of a CBO to manage water bill payment for the whole community as a single subscriber (Fig. 2). However, the reach of the master meter program is limited. In 2010, only PALYJA had implemented the master meter program, and it was only in two communities: one with coverage of fifty-two households and another of thirty-seven households. Subsequently, there were no further plans to add more master meter systems in other communities. In the master meter implementation, PALYJA worked with an NGO to train CBOs in managing the operation and maintenance of the system. In both cases, the NGO is Mercy Corps, an INGO that also contributed funds to pay for a meter for each household to calculate individual household bills.
Forming CBOs to operate and maintain the master meter relies on the residents' knowledge of their territories and of their neighbors. Theoretically, the engagement with CBOs as the experts of their own neighborhoods would increase the community's ownership of the system, and thus it would be more likely to maintain it and to share the responsibility of paying the bills (Wu and Malaluan 2008). In Metro Manila, where the water master meter program was implemented citywide, the system has been touted by water operators as supporting community ownership of the water system and encouraging honesty of community members. The master meter system was also perceived by water service providers as a way to minimize nonrevenue water, since illegal water connections would only occur after the master meter and would still be accounted for in the billing. The master meter is also seen as a way to provide a water supply for slum dwellers without legal land status, who are not entitled to individual house connections. With a master meter, the water connection is not considered an individual household connection. More generally, the community “can encourage the coordination and integration work between community and government for infrastructure plan in that area” (Prabaharyaka and Pooroe 2010: 237). The water system relies on the local knowledge of the communities; thus, it is expected to be more sustainable.
However, the master meter system and the various levels of community organizations that are involved in practice are not just expecting the CBOs to have the knowledge of engaging with their neighbors but are also expecting the CBOs to exert power over their neighbors on the basis of knowledge and familiarity. While authorities and representatives from water utilities hailed community relations and kinship as the strength of the master meter system, collection of bill payments contradicts the ways in which that expertise is obtained, which is through socially reciprocal and communal encounters. On the one hand, leaders of the CBOs who were interviewed in this study expressed reluctance to confront their own neighbors, whom they meet every day as friends, for unpaid bills. On the other hand, the CBO is listed as the customer of the water service through the master meter, so if the leaders could not convince their neighbors to pay, they would have to pay from their own pockets. The leaders of the CBO are too familiar with the individual household customers; thus, the close-knit community system may become a barrier in imposing any penalty to those who do not—or perhaps cannot—pay. Furthermore, these are communities that are still practicing communal work and are sharing economy in various aspects of everyday life.
The contradiction between community water bill collection and neighborly relations is not only in Jakarta. According to Wu Xun and Nepomuceno A. Malaluan (2008), water master meters in Metro Manila reduced nonrevenue water because members of the community would make sure that everyone pays. However, current observations in some of the sites suggest that this may not be sustainable in the long term. In the case of Smokey Mountain, a squatter settlement in Metro Manila's dump site, water loss was immediately brought down from over 50 percent to 10 percent when the master meter system was first implemented in 2003. After six years of implementation, the water loss increased again to 40 percent. The manager of the zone indicated that people would still find ways to go around the system, pointing out that it was the culture of the people. In addition, district officials could also start to make illegal connections or tolerate those who started them. In Jakarta, where there are only two master meter systems, the situation is not as extreme, but leaders of the CBO found it difficult to convince some neighbors to pay because they did not wish to jeopardize neighborly relations.
Confronting neighbors who took water through illegal connection was difficult because it may be a source of conflict. Therefore, the CBO is reluctant to report it to the water service operator. This pattern appears in Jakarta, particularly in the Jembatan Besi area that serves thirty-seven households. In the beginning, the program was very appealing because it brought affordable water at a price less than one-twentieth of that of the water vendors the residents were used to paying. The connection to the master meter was provided by capital expenditure from PALYJA, worth Rp 100 million, while the household connections were subsidized as a separate grant from USAID.
However, after some time, the community started to face similar difficulties in achieving full payment collection, much like the problem faced in Metro Manila's Smokey Mountain. In terms of reporting water problems to the water service companies, it is helpful for community members to have someone familiar and approachable to the management such as the CBO leaders. But the CBO leaders' knowledge and familiarity of the neighbors do not automatically become expertise in collecting payment. Collecting payment means collecting revenues from monetary resources of the urban poor, which is limited to begin with. Familiar faces who collect the bill find it challenging to impose penalty to those who miss their payment.
In 2010, there were only two master meter systems in Jakarta, Jembatan Besi and Rawa Bebek, but one had different dynamics than the other. Unlike the case of Jembatan Besi, the CBO in Rawa Bebek learned new skills to overcome the problem of collecting payment from their neighbors. With assistance from Mercy Corps, leaders of the CBO learned how to disconnect water so that they could cut off service of those who did not pay. The CBO displays the payments every month on a public board under the water tower so the community can see and trust the CBO as the bill collector. While the training to disconnect water services may be a result of interaction with Mercy Corps as the bridging NGO between the community and PALYJA, the announcement board was the community's own innovation. According to a representative of the CBO, the board “indicated transparency” to nurture trust. In practice, the board becomes an object of power, through which water-power relations in the community are validated.1 The board as the method of demanding payments from those who defaulted is coproduced among the water service provider, the NGO, and the CBO as a result of this water master meter system. Although the board replicates the local form of information sharing, the information on individual households' failures to pay water bills on the board is a hybrid of local system and expert-driven urban water management by the private water service provider.
The voluntary nature of work by the CBO members who manage the master meter reinforces the needs to have committed organizers but at the same time represents the outsourcing of monitoring responsibility from the water utility provider such as PALYJA to the CBO without devolving funds to support it. Although the CBO effort denotes its capacity to improve water services to its neighborhood, the obligation to conduct the work, including collecting the bills that generate revenue for the water service provider, denotes the concurrence with their label as illegal squatters who are not qualified for individual water connections. Knowledge gained and implemented in the management of the CBO and of the master meter does not indicate improvement of community status in the city. Nor did it make CBO members recognized urban water experts beyond their immediate neighborhoods. Rather, the knowledge on organizational and water management was imposed as a consequence of being marginalized and has not shown indicated potentials for community recognition in the city other than in publications by the water service providers.
Service-Oriented and Advocacy-Oriented Activities
Based on their activities, participatory civil society organizations in urban water management can be categorized into two types: service oriented and advocacy oriented. Organizations like the CBOs that operate and maintain the master meter are service oriented, because their main goal is the immediate improvement of water services for the urban poor. It is this group that water service providers often rely on in going forth with their programs for the poor. With the involvement of INGOs such as Mercy Corps and Environmental Service Program in Jakarta that offered grants for infrastructure funds, CBOs can obtain money for capital expenditures to expand the system at lower cost or no cost to the service provider.
The second type of participation, advocacy oriented, does not collaborate with the water service providers. The advocacy groups question the legitimacy of water management systems, including water tariffs and privatization of services. The activists who are involved in the advocacy groups might not come from the local community where they are advocating. They can also come from outside the city and from different cities. In several interviews, water service providers expressed their perception of these groups as merely making noise on the basis of criticizing privatization of water.
On the ground, advocacy-oriented NGOs also connect with people in urban poor communities. In Jakarta, advocacy NGOs such as the Urban Poor Consortium and KRuHA have networks with more than one hundred organizations across Indonesia. KRuHA, as one example, has the goal of promoting “community-based water resources management through water resources advocacy and strengthen public control and access to clean water.”2 In practice, they work with communities to hear the problems they have with water supply but not in building physical infrastructures. One of the communities they work with is Muara Baru, a poor urban neighborhood at the northern tip of West Jakarta in which households have very poor water service in spite of being connected to the piped water network (Fig. 3). Members of this community actively participate in KRuHA's activities, including demonstrations against privatization. “We do not have the expertise, nor the manpower, to lay pipes,” says Hamong Santono, the coordinator of KRuHA.3 After hearing the communities' concerns, they consolidate the general problems to mobilize public campaigns around those issues. This type of participation, however, advocates resistance against existing systems and therefore does not relate well with the private-sector operators.
Both service-focused and advocacy-focused participatory organizations play a role in bottom-up knowledge production on water provision and distribution by democratizing water management knowledge to the marginalized population in terms of piped water access. They also continuously negotiate monopolies of expertise by private-sector water providers and the state in delivering water services. As observed in the service-oriented CBOs and NGOs that operate in Jakarta's master meter programs, community-based management of water systems in the neighborhoods required the community water managers to be trained in management and technical knowledge on how the water master meter systems operate.
Santono, the KRuHA coordinator, acknowledged that the different expertise between KRuHA and the service-oriented organizations led to differences in activities. An interview with the president director of PALYJA corroborated the notion that the water service provider collaborated only with service-oriented organizations. While all are working on urban water supply issues, the advocacy-oriented organizations operate as an ideological competitor to the private water service providers. KRuHA claimed that privatization would turn water into commodities and would eventually disadvantage communities, while the water service provider would claim that it is working for the good of the society as part of the efficient private sector. In collaborative relationships, the water service provider acknowledges and relies on the expertise of the participatory organization, but in confrontational relationships they challenge each other's claim of expertise.
These two types of participatory activities in water provision and distribution in Jakarta show that social participation is not restricted to democratizing water access and knowledge. Rather, it is about competing and collaborating knowledge and expertise across different stakeholders. In practice, bottom-up knowledge and expertise through participation is also a result of importing from other places. The importation of ideas and concepts manifests in the ideas of water as a human right that referred much to experiences elsewhere and to the United Nations. The importation of ideas and concepts is also prevalent in the case of the master meter, which had been implemented in various cities before coming to Jakarta. In terms of competition and collaboration, the service-oriented participation worked within water privatization and engaged with the water utilities to deliver services and was complementary to the achievements of the water utility company. In contrast, the knowledge about urban water management promoted by KRuHA, based on water as a human right, was a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the private sector in running the water services. Claims of knowledge and expertise on water management and systems by civil society organizations are inseparable from models of “best practices” that are applied across contexts and are also inseparable from the mainstream approaches to urban water management.
Participatory approaches in urban water management in Jakarta have become one of the ways to mitigate the dire situation of water supply for the poor and to explore alternative ways of city-scale management. Communities in Jakarta have long been independently trying to fulfill their water needs, as the performance of the city has historically been notoriously poor in its urban water supply system (McIntosh 2003). However, these community participation efforts have engaged more directly with the mainstream water management discourse after the failure of privatization to achieve expected results of piped water network coverage. Community-based participatory approaches with the private sector in Jakarta are coshaping water network expansion knowledge with the private sector but at the same time are becoming parts of the system that upholds the expertise of the private sector as the legitimate water service provider in Jakarta. Meanwhile, the advocacy-oriented organizations have engaged with privatization by countering it and by overturning it through a lawsuit. The practice of opposing privatization was an assertion of knowledge and expertise by water advocacy organizations over the existing private sector-operated water supply system.
How does community participation help maintain water management in the area? The programs potentially empower urban poor communities by becoming sources and processes of knowledge production and hybridization. The example of Rawa Bebek in Jakarta, where the CBO has the power and the legitimacy to disconnect water to nonpaying households, is a case in which the members of the CBO have gone through training and experience. The possibility of disconnecting households in the system replicates the penalty system by the water service provider for nonpaying consumers and thus replicates the power relations in the neighborhood. The CBO trainings are processes of hybridization between community knowledge and those of the water service provider.
How does this contribute to water accessibility in the long term? The coercion to infuse knowledge and familiarity of neighbors into expertise in collecting bill payments has proven strenuous in participatory water management cases. Rather than being publicly acknowledged as water experts to push civic epistemologies to the forefront, CBO members are obliged to conduct billing, which is in fact an outsourcing of the obligation of the water companies. Meanwhile, in the advocacy-oriented activities, there is not yet a clear alternative to privatization besides going back to the public water utility company. The public water utility company itself is currently still limited in its capacity because of the scale of the network to be serviced and Jakarta's obsession with megaprojects that demand more water. Furthermore, none of the participatory efforts have addressed the environmental degradation that contributes to Jakarta's lack of raw water supply, which mirrors the problems of the private water companies that are not touching those larger issues.
How do these participatory efforts interact with the mainstream expertise and knowledge building on urban water management? They interact in two ways: First is the scale of implementation, which is limited to a particular urban poor neighborhood and makes participation an obligation for the poor who reside in “illegal” settlements but not for the whole city. In other words, the urban poor are pressured to become experts in managing water for their own because they could not afford the “normal” services, and therefore participatory knowledge building and expertise become associated only with the poor and not with the mainstream. The second type of interaction is through the delegation of power and risk shifting. The involvement of CBOs in managing the master meter is a delegation of power from the private sector to the CBO, but it is also a form of delegation of responsibility. It takes away from the private sector the risk of dealing with many default payments, but the CBO ends up having to fork out money or to decide on its own how to persuade people to pay. In the process, the CBO replicates the water service provider's strategy of disconnection in the neighborhood. Besides pushing the responsibility and the risk to the CBO, this scheme also gears people to think of water as economic good rather than public good, in which paying to the water utility becomes the more important issue than water access in the whole community. On the one hand, it expanded the expertise to manage the piped water system by using the community capacity, but on the other hand it pacifies them through community–water service provider collaboration.
Is it possible that the knowledge and expertise obtained from service-oriented participation lead to societal change and development as a whole? The success of service-oriented participation in urban water management is currently measured by how many people are connected, but not so much by its contribution to the long-term development of society. The measures of success do not include identification of potentials to transfer skills from micro-level participation to the macro level, in which knowledge of issues and rights contributes to self-confidence and the propensity to question policies. Currently, the urge to question policies is mostly gained from advocacy-oriented rather than service-oriented participation. However, advocacy-oriented participation is at odds with service operators; thus, the communities they work with may have developed critical thoughts on politics and policies but remain poorly served by the water service provider. The production of knowledge and expertise on advancing urban water management through participatory approaches in Jakarta is still segregated between the two orientations.
The persistence of water problems in various urban poor communities in Jakarta signifies the failure of the global infrastructure-and-finance-dominated water management paradigm in an unequal urban landscape, which opens the possibility for participatory approaches to enter the mainstream discourse. However, the implementation of these participatory approaches has not pushed civic epistemologies to the forefront; rather, the participatory approaches and the infrastructure-and-finance approach have coexisted and coshaped water knowledge in various urban landscapes, including that of Jakarta. The separation between service-oriented and advocacy-oriented participatory activities in Jakarta's water management has left city-scale water management expertise unchallenged by community-based knowledge production. Despite the lawsuit victory in 2015 that annulled water concession contracts in Jakarta (a decision that was subsequently overturned in higher court), advocacy-oriented participation has not brought in community-managed systems for the city. Service-oriented participation indirectly endorsed the operation of private water utilities through collaborations, while advocacy-oriented participation lacks pragmatic avenues for implementing alternative policies and strategies. Through service-oriented participation and advocacy-oriented participation communities could build knowledge and negotiate expertise about water management through their experiences. At the moment, it is still unlikely that these participatory approaches would challenge the dominant urban water management paradigm.
I thank Chong Su Li, Hamong Santono, Vincent Fournier, Vincent Pooroe, Mrs. Sumarti, and Mr. Paulus for their indispensable support in writing this article. I also acknowledge input from Sulfikar Amir in preparing this article for publication. Finally, I am grateful to the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, for its financial support of the research on which this article is based. An earlier version of this article was presented at the European Urban Research Association Conference at Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany, in September 2010.
Rawa Bebek, water CBO leader, interview.
Hamong Santono, interview by the author, Jakarta, July 2010.