Story of a City Forest

Not every city has a natural forest, moreover a World City Forest, like we have in Bandung: Babakan Siliwangi (BakSil). Now that we have one, what do we do with it? Merely disrupting it by replacing the trees with massive concrete buildings would be unimaginable, since that is the same as destroying the forest; but this is what seems to be the near future of BakSil City Forest if local people and communities do nothing about it.

Forest Walk at Babakan Siliwangi. (c)GalihSedayu2013

Forest Walk at Babakan Siliwangi. (c)GalihSedayu2013

Therefore, several communities have been holding events in this area to activate the idle space, while inviting more people to interact with the forest. Among the communities is Bandung Creative City Forum (BCCF), an independent organization that has previously hold two events to intervene BakSil. The first one was in 2011, during TUNZA: having BakSil declared as a World City Forest and building a canopy walk, presently called ForestWalk, at the premise. The second one was in 2012, with an event called Lightchestra as the opening of Helarfest2012: a three-days sound- and light-play in the forest, with an open-air concert of local indie bands, painting artists’ live performances, a photography contest, a paper lantern workshop for children, communities that perform best at night such as B.U.L.B. (Barudak Urban Light Bandung, a light graffiti community) and Bandung Urban Jedi; also collaborating with an environmental organization to limit and measure solid waste (food packaging, plastic bags, etc.) produced during the event.

"Al Fresco" forest picnic at Forest Walk during REGIA. (c)GalihSedayu2013

“Al Fresco” forest picnic at Forest Walk during REGIA. (c)GalihSedayu2013

This time, as the first 2013 program, BCCF held “Regia”, which aimed to refresh our relationship with our only city forest. The name “Regia” was taken from a dominant tree species that grows within the area, Delonix Regia, or Flamboyan in local name. During the two days of Regia, 20-21 April 2013, a lot of people gathered for various events, such as “Al-Fresco” or potluck picnic at the ForestWalk, children activities and games, open library, photo exhibition, morning yoga, forest dinner, live blues performance “Blues Leuweung” by several local blues musicians, and a discussion session about urban forest to close the series of event. An infographic, that was especially made for this event and was published in a regional newspaper and online social media, presents a number of facts about BakSil City Forest and how important it is for us.

From time to time, we need to celebrate our public space. Especially in a dense, growing city with substandard infrastructures like Bandung, whose inhabitants often need to take their own initiatives to improve their living environment.

After Regia, it seemed that there is hope that the company who has the developing right over BakSil would postpone its plan to build any commercial entity on the area. But our hope is yet again on trial, due to today’s update that the developer now has possessed permission to actually build a restaurant. Irritated as we are, we shouldn’t lose focus and conduct, within our capacity, smart responses to this issue. Let’s just make sure with all of our might that the story of our city forest continues for generations, onwards.

Related links:

Today’s news: the company is granted a permission to build on that area

Why we should care about our city forest

I wish these trees could stay

BCCF event announcement: REGIA

A photo essay by Galih Sedayu: on REGIA event

A photo essay by Galih Sedayu: about a series of graffiti that protests the commercialization of the city forest

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Why we should care about our city forest

Regia Infographic

Regia Infographic by BatasFana (c)2012

Babakan Siliwangi, a Green Open Space in Bandung, is maintained as a preserved area up to today. On September 27, 2011, Babakan Siliwangi was declared as a World City Forest by the United National Environment Program (UNEP) in TUNSA event (an International Children and Youth Conference on Environment). There are not too many people, even those living in Bandung, know about Babakan Siliwangi City Forest, including a number of its interesting facts. Therefore, a wider dissemination is necessary, in order to reintroduce Babakan Siliwangi City Forest, among other by conducting a variety of creative activities in the area, and by spreading the information about the area. Following are a number of facts about Babakan Siliwangi City Forest.

In the earlier days, there were twelve fresh water springs within Babakan Siliwangi City Forest area, but today only one is left. Soil water surface has been reduced from 22,99meter to 14,35meter (data from 1999). If the area of this city forest is reduced, so will the soil water surface, due to the reduction of its absorbing area.

Babakan Siliwangi City Forest is a habitat for 120 plant species and 149 animal species. It is also a transit spot for six species of migrating birds. If this forest area is gone, the migration route of these birds will be cut.

Trees that grow within the area are, among others, Cola (Cola nitida) and Sempur (Dillenia Indica L.), but the dominant one is Flamboyan (Delonix Regia). Plantations in this area function as a buffer for air and noise pollutions. Whoever spends time in the middle of this city forest will feel a sense of serenity, although it is located very near to crowded big roads.

The width of canopy from the trees that grow in the forest reaches up to 5 hectares, while the width of Babakan Siliwangi area itself is only 3.8 hectares. The canopy functions as a shade that can reduce stress in human beings that stand under the area, since the trees also produce Oxygen.

The function of trees in this area as CO2 absorbance reaches up to 13,680 kilograms per day, while releasing O2 up to 9,120 kilograms per day. If the price of pure O2 is up to IDR 25,000 per liter, then the economic value of Babakan Siliwangi reaches up to IDR 148,000,000. From this calculation, it can be figured that if the area of Babakan Siliwangi is reduced even “only” up to 20%, Bandung will have a loss of about IDR 10 billion.

This information is only a few, compared to all the facts around Babakan Siliwangi City Forest, and these are facts that can mostly be observed and measured. However, beyond these facts, there are other evidences such as people’s interaction, communal activities, and social relationships that are established due to the existence of this unique, open urban space, such as this city forest. Such advantages cannot merely be quantified, since their widespread impacts and sustainability cannot be measured in a short, limited time scope. Judging from the height of activities in this area, which shows the crucial role of an urban space that invites its citizens to come out and enjoy their habitat, it can be concluded that Babakan Siliwangi City Forest should be preserved as a qualified Green Open Space that is kept open for all Bandung citizens.

*the Indonesian version of this article was published in Pikiran Rakyat

On Technology Transfer

The other day I asked @OutofPoverty, who was welcoming questions via Twitter, the following:

Based on your experiences, what factors caused failure in technology transfer?

@OutofPoverty answered:

1)   Technology that is too expensive

2)   Failure to design for the market

3)   Absence of last mile supply chain

4)   No attention to business principle

OutofPoverty

The reason I asked this had to do with a lot of design projects by our industrial design students, both within an academic scope and extra-curricular programs, and also numerous research, experiments and projects by our industrial design research group, especially the ones that take place in rural or remote areas. In those areas, essential needs and problems are obvious; however, the answer is not always “design” as in a “tangible product”, but sometimes it’s the infrastructure that hinders access, unaffordable materials, or substandard resources. Designers often have to think beyond the tangible product, by creating also a system that supports the availability and delivery of the product. With it, comes the aspect of technology transfer, as well.

Theoretically, the concepts of “appropriate technology” and factors that guarantee its sustainability once it is implemented are familiar to us, but still, not all technology transfer works for every case. Therefore, I wonder what others in a similar line of works have experienced.

The answer confirmed that there should always be a realistic economic calculation for any solution, next to other crucial factors such as usability and access. Thanks, Paul Polak & team! 🙂