More than 13 rivers are crossing the city of Jakarta with Ciliwung being the most important. At the same time, many people from rural areas come to Jakarta to improve their livelihood and most of them find living by the river. Unfortunately, the uncontrolled population growth in riverbank areas resulted in changes of the river itself – such as silting or increased water pollution. Therefore, the management of the riverbank is a necessary step to take if the flood issues that have been affecting local communities and economic opportunities are to be addressed.

Credits: The Jakarta Post

Today, Jakarta has only 10% of green areas compare to the 30% set by the approved regulation. That is why transforming the riverbanks into urban forests can help Jakarta meet its obligations and goals.

Urban forestry has many functions. Amongst others, these include mitigating the risk of acid rain or absorbing carbon monoxide (CO) and dioxide (CO2) produced from city’s activities. Besides this, an urban forest is also a source of oxygen (O2), or again, it absorbs particles of lead (Pb) making the air cleaner.

What is the innovation? How does it work?

More trees along the river banks will provide many ecological benefits. Other than those cited above, an increased vegetation will maintain the microclimate in the surrounding areas, conserve water sources, and protect the water banks from erosion, preventing siltation. At the same time, community empowerment is promoted to preserve and maintain the urban forest and provide economic opportunities for the community.

In fact, in addition to such ecological benefits, the urban/bamboo forest can be developed as an eco-tourism destination. Space can be arranged for pedestrians and cyclists. This will give a place for the community to rest and get together, as well as supporting the city transportation system. The green open space is a requisite for a healthy, liveable city, particularly thanks to its multipurpose and important function as a public area supporting urban and people lives.

To achieve this, various bamboo plants and fast-growing orchard trees shall be planted. Bamboo groves are fast growing plants and they do not need special care. Bamboo plantations also do not require high investment. Once the bamboo clumps are well grown then it can be harvested each year without damaging the clumps. The root system is strong, resistant and spreads in all directions, holding the topsoil and preserving the riverbanks.

This program also aims to provide opportunities for the community to develop the local economy and create jobs through the development of enterprises that use bamboo and/or promote ecotourism.

There are 26 community organizations already involved with the ecological maintenance of the river and its surroundings, although the project is still in its early stages. For example, one of these organizations is providing environmental education by involving schoolchildren with the river and the riverbanks ecosystems. There are also several other community formations working on urban agriculture, waste-derived handicrafts, and on developing ecotourism.

Some of the additional activities that could be undertaken at this early stage also include: Conduct research as a basis to support the adaptation programme as outlined above; Coordinate with stakeholders on preparing the programme; Strengthen and prepare institutions to manage the programme; Prepare proposals for funding and involving stakeholders participation.

What are the CO2 reduction goals?

Bamboo groves are able to absorb CO2 emissions 35% better than other plants, while producing 35% more oxygen. Bamboo can be used as a source of alternative renewable biomass or biofuel, replacing traditional fossil fuel sources.

* Bamboo stems, leaves and shoots have a high cellulose content containing a lot of starch, sugar and active compounds. Through chemical and physical processes it can be transformed into biofuel and biomass energy. From the total bamboo taken, about 50 % – 57 % can be turned into biofuel and further into alcohol and diesel. In addition to that, bamboo-derived charcoal is useful as activated carbon for various purposes, including water purification and to bind toxins in the soil.


Creating an urban forest of bamboo along the river Ciliwung in Jakarta will provide many ecological, economic, but also social and health benefits to the nearby communities.

Social and Health Benefits (projected):

Green open spaces shaded by bamboo could be used as social meeting areas for the community as well as playing ground for the children. This project will provide an opportunity to engage people on how to take care, maintain and respect the environment, especially the riverbanks and the river. Developing and maintaining bamboo forests also keeps the culture and the local wisdom of the bamboo utilization alive. Bamboo is widely utilized by the community, e.g. as building material for bridges, fences, furniture, musical instrument, crafts etc. Bamboo shoots are widely used as a food ingredient by many Indonesians.  It is believed that bamboo shoots are good for health since they contain high potassium and fiber that can reduce the risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and colon cancer.

Economic Benefits (projected):

Investments in bamboo are safe and profitable. The demand for bamboo is always there and increasing. Planting bamboo in the city forest is very suitable because it can be developed into different innovative and excellent products. If the riverbanks could be developed as an ecotourism area, it will help improve the local economy by creating jobs. Another possible economic contribution is the decrease in government spending to stop erosion along the river banks, as well as reduce the cost of dredging. For the community, the root clump of bamboo will help retain water that can be readily used,  therefore helping to reduce public spending to channel water to nearby households.

Next Steps:

Development of bamboo forests in the riverbanks of Ciliwung is being considered in line with adaptation efforts in the city. It helps strengthen communities' resilience to climate change, and provides ecological, social and economic benefits. 

Jakarta is concerned and seriously handling the condition of rivers and of community activities along the riverbanks, because flooding can cause activity paralysis, economic and material losses. Thus, the government of Jakarta is also actively raising funds and advocating to get support from the private sector to build green open areas, including broader urban forestry strategies. To support communities’ economic activity, accessing funds from the various ministries such as Ministry of Small Medium Enterprises, are being looked into, in order to generate capital for community cooperation, product development, and marketing.

From this possible pilot, the approach could be replicated and scaled-up in the other 12 rivers in the city.

Contact Details:

Dr. Aisa Tobing

Gerakan Ciliwung Bersih

  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Health
  • Social
Key Impact
Creating an urban forest of bamboo along the river Ciliwung in Jakarta will provide many ecological, economic, but also social and health benefits to the nearby communities.
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