'Due to breakup' mural in West Flood Canal, Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (07/11) Anies and Sandi is rumored will close one of the always-busy and famous prostitution nest in in West Flood Canal (Kanal Banjir Barat / KBB), Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta (JG Photo / Yudha Baskoro)

Wrong Side of the Banks

NOVEMBER 14, 2017

The new governor and deputy governor of Jakarta, Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, were elected with strong support from Jakarta's Muslim majority. 

In their first few months in office, they have already come good with one of their campaign promises, closing the famous Alexis Hotel in North Jakarta, allegedly a hotbed of debauchery and illegal prostitution. 

Now Anies and Sandi, as they are popularly called, are rumored to have their sights set on closing another famous red-light area in the capital, the huts and tents that line the city's Western Flood Canal in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta.
When the Jakarta Globe visited the area on Tuesday (07/11), street vendors and scavengers quietly went about their business, selling snacks or cleaning used plastic bottles to be resold. 
These are the locals of the area, who for years have been living in tents made of tarpaulin or cardboard. The makeshift adobes are propped up by bamboo poles tied with plastic ropes to electric poles or railroad fences.
"There are places there used as illegal brothels. [The prostitutes] are mostly illegal migrants from outside Jakarta. We're going to close the place down as soon as possible," Sandiaga said at City Hall on Monday. 
But not everyone who lives in the little shanty town near the Western Flood Canal is from outside the capital. 
62-year-old Masami, for example, who lives in one of the tent houses, carries a Jakarta e-KTP (the national identity card).
"I have been living here for a long time, dozens of years. I collect used bottles for a living," Masami said in front of her tent house. 
"I have never been able to get money or anything from the government, even though I have the e-KTP and the KK (family card," Masami said. 
"If they evict me, that will make my life very difficult. I'll have to move to another place near Hotel Indonesia," she said. 
Masami said she has never worked as a prostitute while she lived on the banks of the Western Flood Canal.Then there is Asmar, a 60-year-old goat herder who claims to have been living on the banks of the canal since the 1960s.

 "If I got evicted, I will move somewhere there [point to another makeshift settlement nearby]. I will have to leave my goats here. I don't have anywhere to take them to," Asmar said.

Most of the residents of Western Flood Canal's shanty town say they will pitch up tent near the busy Tanah Abang market, the Palmerah train station, the Petamburan cemetery or sleep in carts just behind Hotel Indonesia.

Some of the residents have started to dismantle their tent houses and rush to leave the area before they are forced to move by Jakarta's notoriously violent municipal police (Satpol PP). 

They pack up everything they own into their carts and push them slowly under a cloudy sky, their children playing quietly on top of blankets covering their belongings.

'All because of a heartbreak,' says a graffiti on a railroad fence. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

A girl relieves herself in a garden patch on the banks of the Western Flood Canal. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

A couple push a cart containing all their belongings, and their children on top of them, moving to another makeshift settlement nearby. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Many tents in the Western Flood Canal shanty town are constructed out of disused advertising banners. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

A girl sits on a wheelbarrow, waiting for her parents. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Masami, a long time resident of the area, collects used plastic bottles for a living. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Jakarta Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno claims many Western Flood Canal residents are illegal migrants from outside the capital. Masami, though, carries a Jakarta identity card (e-KTP). (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

A typical afternoon in the Western Flood Canal shanty town. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

A scavenger cleans used bottles to be resold. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

A mannequin head hangs from a power line. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Children watch floating diggers clean up mud from the canal. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)