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Old Batavia Destruction

Some writers who visited and lived in Batavia write their impressions, both about the destruction of Batavia after Daendels became governor general, as well as notes on the outskirts of after the tear down of Batavia city walls, until the article on tourism in the old city of Batavia.

Before Daendels came, Batavia experienced ecological damage as written by Blusse as follows:

The problem that underlay Batavia's demise – its transformation from a healthy city into a graveyard - should not be sought primarily in the Dutch layout of the town or in natural disasters. They should be sought in the Ommelanden, the city's hinterland. The rash and thoughtless development of the Ommelanden for the sugar cultivation, followed by a crisis in the export of this product, resulted in important changes in the natural irrigation system of the plains and eventually affected its ecological balance (Blusse, 1986: 17).

About the destruction of Batavia, a travelers Couperus who visited Batavia in 1815 said:

"This is the formerly beautiful Tijgergracht, but all the manifold edifices which used to occupy the area in between this canal and the Prinsenstraat have been leveled to the ground. Who would recognize it as the Tijgergracht, which Valentijn celebrated in 1726, only eighty years before, as follows: 'The Tijgergracht possesses uniformly beautiful buildings, the most exquisite of the town. The beauty of this elegantly planted straight canal surpasses anything I have ever seen in Holland. Although one may find along the Heerengracht in Amsterdam or elsewhere more beautiful palaces or wider canals, all [these canals and streets) however do  not match the delight and the satisfying and pleasing view that this canal and the others of Batavia offer to the eye ( . . . ) ." After rambling on for a while about the lost splendour of the town, Couperus concludes: "the migration of the European nations, if I may put it like that, has of course resulted in new settlements elsewhere, i.e. (the higher-lying regions of) Rijswijk, Noordwijk and Weltevreden" (Blusse, 1986:  15).

Once the center of the city was move to Weltevreden, Old Batavia destroyed, but since the 19th century, Batavia has developed very fast. Chinese settlements at Senen and Jatinegara have become new urban centers. However, the city faces a large ecological disaster because the development in its hinterland was uncontrollable.

According to Ong Tae hae, a Chinese traveller in the mid of 19 century, in contrast to the dense area in the city, the houses in Kampong have garden, and even in the villages – he would probably meant the suburb, there were Dutch houses and parks. According to him in the suburb, there are summer pavilion, gallery, bridges, and terraces that were so elegant and beautiful. The urban life in this capital city was also described as once a week people go to worship place, he meant church.

There are books for tourism on Indonesian town as the one by Maya Jayapal who wrote “Old Jakarta”. Besides the book is very informative for tourism the writer tries to present as complete figure of old Jakarta by compiling scientific and historical work on the city. The “Old Jakarta” is not telling the urban life in an impressive way but it is trapped into political history of the City. Hence, the story of the Chinese is told in a sequence of the 1740 tragedy that has been told by other writers.

Jayapal’s book in general is writing a city that has been gone forever. The building she mentioned in the history of old Jakarta are almost not exist anymore, there are only several buildings that still exist with a totally different environment. Old Jakarta is gone forever without any remembrance except in book such as Jayapal’s.


Jatinegara 1941
Jatinegara in 1941