Jakarta citizens’ work to end privatization in Jakarta and enable a transition to good, publicly-run water services has resulted in the city government’s plan to re-municipalize Jakarta’s water supply.

For some years Jakarta’s governors have been supportive of ending water privatization in the city, despite this trend being backed by national government and the Supreme Court. The city’s population has for many years combated water privatization on many fronts, with the support of experts, academics, human rights and anti-corruption activists, and lawyers. Targeted actions have ranged from op-ed articles in newspapers, investigative reports in television and radio, research studies and leaflets, to strikes, demonstrations, debates, media campaigns, rallies, petitions and legal actions.

Photo credit: Amrta Institute for Water Literacy

One particularly effective strategy in November 2012 involved residents, represented by Jakarta Legal Aid, filing a citizen lawsuit against water privatization – a long and successful legal challenge that played a major role in maintaining political pressure.

The governor of Jakarta responded to the pressure by forming a special team named The Water Management Evaluation team, consisting of civil servants, experts, and Amrta Institute Director Nila Ardhianie. The team recommended that the Governor end water privatization using a civil settlement and set out a plan to take over water services from the private sector. Public water company PAM Jaya demanded a contract renegotiation with the private water operators, and the provincial government of Jakarta announced a plan to purchase private water operators’ shares. In 2013, the provincial house of representatives approved a budget for PAM Jaya to proceed with share repurchase.

In February 2019, Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan announced that the provincial government would take over the wholesale management of water supplies in the city from private operators – a decision taken despite a Supreme Court ruling that supported the legality of water privatization in Jakarta.

“For more than a decade, the people and organizations in Jakarta have been fighting against water privatization, using flexible strategies and myriad tactics. They are teaching us to never give up, to keep moving forward – and that the struggle for water is the struggle for life.”
– Marcela Olivera

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Atlas of Utopias