Is Jakarta really ready for its first Formula-E Race?
On the 21st of September, 2019, Jakarta's governor, Anies Baswedan, announced that Jakarta will host a race in the 2020 season of the ABB Formula-E championship.
Fanfare roared throughout the streets of Jakarta. The government held an electric car parade in celebration of the announcement, lead by the governor. Motorsports fans rejoiced that Indonesia will finally become a landmark in the future of motorsport, economic benefits were ready to be reaped by companies, and the city will attract even more global and financial attention. The future looked great.
However, despite all the celebration, Jakarta has been plagued by many problems for years. Flooding has devastated the city many times throughout the years thanks to government incompetence and neglect for infrastructure. Pollution and bottleneck traffic holds the city in gridlock, and worst of all, it's the fastest sinking city in the world.
Being a citizen of Jakarta, I ask myself, is it worth allocating lots of government money into hosting Formula-E while ignoring the city's rampant problems in the background?
Formula-E in Jakarta
Jakarta's Electric Car Parade. (Source: Jakarta Globe)
Ever since his election in 2017, Jakarta's governor, Anies Baswedan, started the movement for the Indonesian capital of Jakarta to hold a Formula-E race. It will be the first FIA-sanctioned race in the country ever since the A1 Grand Prix in 2006 and the first-ever race administered directly by the body.
Plans were discussed to include Jakarta as a host of the 2020 ABB Formula-E season in New York City last year. In August, the FIA officially gave the rights to the Indonesian capital to host the race for the next five consecutive years in August 2019.
The reason the governor decided for Jakarta to become a host for the 2020 Formula-E season is to boost the city's long-term commitment to emission-free transportation and the use of sustainable energy sources. The government also aims to reap economic benefits in the race through hotel occupancy and other hospitality activities. It is expected to gain $87 million in economic benefits.
The city council will invest $92.3 million into hosting the event. The money will be spent on, but not limited to, commitment fees, road reconstructions, building safety walls, insurance, and other costs.
Benefits of the Race
A Formula-E car. (Source: FIA ABB Formula-E)
According to Jakarta's legislative council, there are three reasons Formula-E could benefit the city:
First, an internationally prestigious event like Formula-E would be able to attract global attention to Indonesia's capital. Second, they predict that Formula-E will boost the usage of electric vehicles throughout Jakarta. Third, they believe that Formula-E will be able to uplift the city's tourism and economy.
They also believe that the benefits can be reaped by most people living in Jakarta. Of course, they will expect losses in its first year, but they're confident that all that heavy investment will pay off. The city council plans to invest in even more large-scale events to be held in the city similar to Formula-E.
Jakarta's deadly 2020 floods. (Source: Tempo News English)
Unusually heavy rains hit Jakarta on New Year's Day 2020. Rainfall began at around 7 PM local time the day before and ended the next morning. The two rivers that cross Jakarta overflowed as a result of heavy rain, causing flash floods in the surrounding communities.
Floodgates couldn't handle the massive influx of water, so most were put on emergency status. Water levels in most parts of the city reached 30 to 200 centimeters, with some areas experiencing up to four meters of flooding. Blackouts and rushing water hampered evacuation efforts.
Many transportation networks were disrupted, including light rail transit, taxis, toll roads, and one of Jakarta's two main airports. Many people had no electricity, as safety reasons forced the electrical company to shut down major power lines.
Unfortunately, 66 deaths were confirmed so far due to reasons such as electrocution, landslides, drowning, and hypothermia. It is Jakarta's deadliest flood since 2007. Rainfall is expected to continue for the next three to seven days, according to Indonesia's meteorology agency.
Jakarta's Flooding History
The viral photo of a Rolls-Royce Ghost stuck in floodwater during the 2013 Jakarta Floods. (Source: AOL UK)
Jakarta's 2020 floods isn't a one-off event. The city has experienced repeated flash flooding throughout its history, which increased since the year 2000. Deadly flash floods affected Jakarta in 1996, 2002, 2007, 2013, and 2020, with the deadliest being the 2007 flooding, which killed 80, and displaced hundreds more.
Every end of the year, Indonesia goes through its rainy season. Thanks to insufficient infrastructure, many areas of Jakarta are flooded each year, causing millions of dollars in damages. The city lacks the proper infrastructure to mitigate floods, which is one of the main reasons why it floods every year. To many, Jakarta's flooding is a sign of how bad its infrastructure is.
Despite repeated flash floods, Jakarta still hasn't improved its infrastructure well enough to mitigate heavy rainfall. For decades, political leaders never really had any consistency in implementing long-term flood management. According to Greenpeace Indonesia, the city has enough resources to deal with these problems. They just aren't willing to.
A mosque in Jakarta's coastline swallowed by seawater. (Source: New York Times, Josh Haner)
Other problems that plague Jakarta is its rampant traffic and pollution problem. The city was ranked the world's most polluted city in 2019, according to air quality monitor Airvisual. The capital has been ranked as the world's most polluted city many times, surpassing other major cities like Shanghai and Karachi.
Traffic has also kept Jakarta in gridlock for many years, costing thousands of dollars in losses each day. This problem has been mitigated though, with the city's first metro line opening just recently. Jakarta also plans to switch to sustainable energy to power its public transportation
Worst of all, the city is rapidly sinking below sea level. Jakarta has become the fastest sinking city in the world. Thanks to the rapid depletion of groundwater, the city is now sinking at a rate of 1-15 centimeters per year, double the global average. The seawalls in the city aren't holding up either. Half of Jakarta will sink in 2025 if current rates continue.
The Northern part of Jakarta is affected the worst. It is the area where most of the city's slums are located. The fastest rates of sinking happen there, and rainwater flows down to the area from higher-lying areas. Seawater constantly leaks through the walls designed to prevent the ocean from flowing inwards, and thanks to saltwater corrosion, it's beginning to crack..
Besides plans to move the city's capital to the island of Borneo, no long-term solutions have been proposed yet.
Politics, stupid politics
Jakarta's governor, Anies Baswedan. (Source: Tirto.id, Andrey Gromico)
Jakarta's current governor, Anies Baswedan, came into power in 2017 after winning the election. However, many speculate that he only came into power because he played the 'religion card' by appealing to the city's majority. Most of his campaign happens in religious buildings, and he also has close connections to radical groups. Not only that but many of his target demographic hate his predecessor, who is a part of a racial and religious minority. Ever since he rose into power, Anies' approval rating has been low. Many speculate that he used Formula-E in order to boost his ratings.
DISCLAIMER: To any Indonesians reading this, I do not intend to agree or disagree with any political view, nor does it reflect my political views. I do not cherry-pick any information relating to the governor and his involvement with Formula-E. This paragraph sums up the timeline relevant to this topic.
The change.org campaign to cancel the Jakarta E-Prix. (Source: change.org, Irawan Endro Prasetyo)
Jakarta's Formula-E budget plans angered most of the city's inhabitants. Many speculate that flood mitigation budgets have been cut to support the funding of the Formula-E race. It turns out that the $100 million used to fund the race is higher than how much the city spends on flood mitigation.
A petition in change.org to stop the race has gathered over 10,000 signatures. According to the campaign's initiator, Irwan Prasetyo, the race is "nothing more than a political stage show that ignores the city's most crucial problems and should be canceled". He also commented on Jakarta's deadly floods as "not a natural disaster, but a disaster caused by the incompetence of the governor of Jakarta who cut the city's budget for flood management and abandoned the development of most of the city's anti-flood infrastructure."
Many people took to social media and posted photos of the disaster to the FIA and Formula-E accounts. According to Jakarta's municipal court, this event is just a waste of taxpayer's money and could have been used to fund programs that would benefit citizens directly. Not only that, but the race does not correlate to the promotion of electric cars, rather it can only be done through the growth of infrastructure. To them, the race is a massive gamble, as the financial advantages and income projection are still unclear. Many countries who hosted a Formula-E race endured many losses and are unable to sustain the program for the coming years.
The governor has outright denied any claims that flood mitigation budgets were cut to support the race, nor that the event was just for political gain.
A Formula-E Car. (Source: Getty Images)
The fact of whether Formula-E will benefit Jakarta or not is very uncertain. The economic benefits and possibilities are great, but with the city's ongoing problems and political instability going on in the background, it's hard to tell whether the benefits will be able to outweigh the disadvantages...