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University of Sydney students research informal settlements in Indonesia

University of Sydney students research informal settlements in Indonesia


Image courtesy University of Sydney.

Twenty students from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning have embarked on a research trip to Indonesia, to study the informal settlements of Tamansari in Bandung. The research trip was organised in collaboration with Indonesia’s leading university, the Institute of Technology Bandung (ITB), in West Java.

Tamansari has one of the largest and most dense populations in Bandung. A large number of urban kampongs or villages have sprouted along the banks of the Cikapundung River, which is simultaneously used as a sewer, garbage refuse, source of water and livelihood.

It is estimated that a quarter of the world’s population currently lives in slums, squatter areas and informal settlements. These settlements have not been planned by councils, government and statutory bodies, but have grown organically by individuals or local groups in response to social and economic needs.

According University of Sydney’s associate professor Paul Jones of the Urban and Regional Planning faculty, “these settlements lack formal planning, control and order, and their diversity presents far greater challenges for the future health and wellbeing of a community”.

For nine days, the University of Sydney and ITB students will spend time studying and understanding the population, urban structure and governance of Tamansari, which has one of the largest and most dense populations in Bandung. To do this, they will survey, map and talk to the local community to identify ways of improving services, infrastructure, housing and governance.

The outcome of the research will be to assess options for improving housing, services and infrastructure. The aim would be to take an incremental approach to change, rather a bulldozer approach that only results in new informal settlements sprouting up elsewhere.

University of Sydney PhD student and ITB urban and regional planning graduate Ninik Suhartini helped to organise the field trip as part of her research into Urban Governance in Developing Countries. She believes it will give both Australian and Indonesian students the chance to work closely with the local community, and that the people and the beneficiaries of urban services ought to be heard and understood.


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