Water management and culture in Indonesian cities
A thesis submitted as part of the Masters program in Engineering (Public Health) at UNSW.
 Preface to open release, 2006
This thesis was primarily a learning experience for myself - I make no great claims that I have come up with original insights. However, I hope that in spite of that, the work I put in it might be of use to somebody else.
This work examines the impact of cultural factors upon the management of water and wastewater in urban Indonesia, with a particular focus on the dominant Javanese culture. The key cultural factors of relevance to development are:
- The pre-eminence of relationships, as opposed to tasks.
- A strong desire for consensus and harmony, and avoidance of conflict.
- Indonesian has traditionally had a history of ‘government by man’ rather than ‘government by law’, that is obedience to a ruler rather than a set of laws which are above the ruler, which leads to the next points:
- A management practice best described as paternalism. This reflects Thus there is a very high view of power which gives power to a leader and little freedom to a subordinate, and an emphasis on relationship above rules or abstract values.
- A strong procedural emphasis, (conformity) stemming in part from the historical concern for security of Indonesian rulers, including the current government, as well as the ceremonial nature of the courtly Javanese culture, and the effect of Dutch colonialism demoting Javanese leaders to powerless bureaucrats.
The impact of these features on any form of development is most significant.
- Indonesians, because of their greater ‘tenderness’ have a greater potential to appreciate the human element of technology.
- Engineering development is restricted by the emphasis on procedure rather than creativity. This cannot be rectified simply by more education, as the education system of a country reflects its culture.
- This will impact upon any program which aims for community level involvement, as people will not necessarily be willing to take responsibility which they perceive may bring them trouble, and such a program may raise concerns of security by the government.
Water and wastewater issues are also examined. The inadequacy of normal Indonesian systems of authority to deal with pollution requires new approaches to be instituted, as has started to happen already. Domestic water practices are described, with the conclusion that even Indonesians with a piped water supply have a significant degree of exposure to contaminated water, in spite of boiling water for drinking.
When this topic was suggested to me by a frustrated Australian consulting engineer in East Java, I felt that there would be enough material to write a worthwhile thesis. That was a gross underestimate. The further I researched, the more I found, and discovered that the impact of culture other contextual issues on development and water issues is far greater than I ever imagined. This work integrates many sources of information, with some success and much difficulty. When discussing a draft with an enthusiast in Indonesian studies, he described it as a mixing bowl 15 km across. That is fair, and to expand the analogy, the more I put in the bowl, the more I found in the cupboards – I could easily have continued gathering and integrating material a good deal longer, and this would indeed have been necessary to reach more detailed conclusions. As it is, the main part of the work is simply laying out the key cultural issues, enabling some initial conclusions, and providing the basis for further work. The breadth of such a work is potentially is greatest strength, and I hope I have done it some measure of justice.
The detailed information discussed here is vital for the process of developing an understanding of Indonesian water and wastewater management, but it is not necessary for every engineer or manager in Indonesia to go through this process themselves. It is hoped that some of the conclusions made here will provide a helpful resource for those involved in this field.
 Complete document
The thesis is currently in Word format, and cannot be easily converted to Wiki markup without losing footnotes. The file will be uploaded soon. If you wish to see the document now, please ask on the author's talk page.
I am releasing this under the GFDL license, basically meaning that you can use this document as you wish, as long as you don't impose stricter conditions on others for any work incorporating a significant part of this document.
 Footnotes and references
- ↑ Clayton (1997). Interview. See references in thesis file for details.
The following are links relevant to this topic, not necessarily having a direct link to this thesis: