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‘It used to be just a shadow’. Tour gives communities chance to see RISE infrastructure in action

9 October 2019

This year Pak Ipan* has participated in RISE workshops designing upgrades for his neighbourhood. He has joined in Science Days, and has come to know the RISE Indonesia team who visit every few months to collect water and soil samples from his neighbourhood.

Amid the workshops and community updates about the program, Pak Ipan and his neighbours have wondered how wetland diagrams and coloured cones marking locations for septic tanks will transform into physical infrastructure.

‘During PANRITA [‘planning in your neighbourhood’], the water and sanitation infrastructure that the researchers were talking about was wishful thinking. It was still a story, something that was very new for residents to hear about. Honestly, we believed it, but we also didn’t believe it,’ Pak Ipan admits.

The more time that Build Team Leader Dr Ihsan Latief and the RISE Indonesia team have spent planning upgrades with communities, the more they have recognised that residents need to see and experience the infrastructure that they are constantly talking about.

‘We felt that a tour of the infrastructure would allow communities to get a better understanding of the systems we describe in our workshops’, Dr Ihsan Latief explains.

In September, Pak Ipan joined 21 community representatives from participating RISE settlements on a bus bound for Batua settlement, to witness RISE’s green infrastructure in action.

RISE's demonstration site, Batua, has been upgraded with nature-based solutions. The health of the environment and residents is not being scientifically assessed like the other 12 settlements. Rather the neighbourhood serves as an additional demonstration site for RISE to build, test and take lessons from this novel infrastructure in an informal settlement context. Stakeholders and others interested in water-sensitive revitalisation can also gain a sense of green infrastructure in-situ.

Over a few hours, Dr Ihsan and the RISE Indonesia team walked the visiting community members along Batua’s newly paved road, demonstrated pressure tanks, community septic tanks, pointing out pipe systems around homes, wetlands, biofiltration gardens and rainwater tanks.

Ibu Suneti, a Batua resident, generously opened up her home to visitors to see her renovated toilet and wash area. ‘Before RISE renovated, our toilet was very simple,’ Ms Suneti explained. ‘It had zinc walls with a lot of holes, and only cloth curtains. No doors.

'A big difference we feel is that besides being comfortable and clean, we can use the toilet now without worrying that people will see us from holes or behind the curtain,’ she said. ‘There is also a washing area as part of the renovations’.

Ibu Suneti's wash area after renovation.

Another Batua resident Ibu Maria agreed, saying she is happy with her new toilet and washing area, with a big difference being a permanent toilet with stone surrounds, floor tiles and a door.

A visiting KePoLink (Community Engagement Council) head felt that pictures of wetlands and septic tanks had been brought to life through the visit.

‘We have seen first-hand what the infrastructure looks like, and where it is located in the neighbourhood’, he said. ‘We can increasingly see that plans to build the green infrastructure is real, and because our settlement is flat, we think the conditions will be good’.

Reflecting over lunch together after the tour finished, the KePoLink head said he felt confident to go back home and explain what he had seen. ‘With this visit I can see the seriousness of RISE. It used to be a shadow, now I see the reality, and I can go back to [my settlement] and explain to others what is coming for us’.

Dr Ihsan and the RISE Indonesia team show a smart box at Batua that will feature at other sites.

*Not his real name