Allies in Undermining the Cipaku Valley

A 3.34-hectare land that falls under a protected area in North Bandung has been converted into a residential zone for the sake of a condo hotel project.

A panorama of the North Bandung Region (Photo: Pikiran Rakyat)

IT’S as if Zaid Mahdani has been swallowed by the Earth. The PT Tri Kurnia Sejahtera president director has not responded to requests for an interview to clarify his company’s role in the North Bandung Region’s (KBU) land use conversion from protected to residential area.

In the last four years, Zaid has been known as a new property owner in the Ledeng Administrative Village, Cidadap Regency. A number of residents in the Cipaku Valley still recall how the man born in Banyuwangi 54 years ago traveled around the valley looking for land in early 2014. “He used to come with Ferdinand. If not, his wife,” said Kaman, a resident of Ledeng, Bandung City, in January.

Kaman is known as a land broker in the village. It was he who helped Zaid with his land search. Meanwhile, Ferdinand Hutagalung, was Tri Kurnia’s technical director. The property company headquartered in Jatinegara, East Jakarta, was looking for property to build a condo hotel. The art deco residential complex would one day be marketed under the name Shahid Cleveland Condotel.

The project received the attention of environmental activists. Four towers—two of which were designed to reach eight floors—would be located in the KBU. At a minimum height of 750 meters above sea level, the 39.35-thousand-hectare land is a strategic region for the conservation of water resources in the north side of the Bandung basin.

KBU’s encroachment, under the banner of investment, is nothing new. In the last three decades, forests in the region that overlaps with Bandung City, Bandung Regency, Cimahi City, and the West Bandung Regency have been decimated. Hotel and restaurant buildings have been erected among residential pockets.

But the Sahid Cleveland Condotel project exposes a much more serious problem. It’s as the effort to protect the KBU through controlling development projects, something that the regional government has touted since 2008, has turned into mere jargon.

On the map attached to Bandung City Regional Regulation No. 18/2011 on the city’s spatial planning, the land under Tri Kurnia Sejahtera is in green, meaning the area was meant to be a protected area with no permanent buildings. But the same area was converted under Regional Regulation No. 10/2015 on Bandung City’s Detailed Spatial Planning and Zonation (Perda RDTR). The 3.34-hectare land owned by the private company is now in yellow, meaning it has been converted into a medium-density residential area.

Denny Zulkaidi, a zoning expert from the Bandung Institute of Technology, can’t wrap his head around the conversion under Bandung City’s Perda RDTR, specifically for Tri Kurnia’s land. “This is too suspicious,” said Denny.

Deddy Mizwar expressed similar suspicion two years ago. As then-deputy governor of West Java, he had his hands full. The provincial government, who was in authority over the KBU’s management and monitoring, felt it had been bypassed. The result of an evaluation, with a copy of a map attached to the Substantive Approval (Persub) drafted by the West Java government for the deliberation of Bandung’s Perda RDTR plan still had Tri Kurnia’s land in green. “Why did the Perda suddenly change? What’s going on?” said Deddy.

I

Buy First, Convert Later

The Sahid Ceveland Condotel would be located on the edge of the Cipaku Valley, Ledeng Administrative Village, not far from the Indonesian University of Education (UPI) in Bandung. Shrubs and produce plants crowd the sloping land. Beneath it runs the Cipaganti River, meandering to the south toward the Cikapundung River. From here, the water will flow into the Citarum River, Bandung Regency.

Construction location of Sahid Cleveland Condotel in Cipaku, Ledeng Sub-District, Bandung(Photo:Pikiran Rakyat)

Excavators that were once in motion at the site are no longer found. Since the debate, the project has been at a standstill, leaving behind fences that have begun to rust. A security officer prevents people from entering the area, saying that the order came from “Jakarta.”

Long before the controversy over the change in color to Bandung City’s Perda RDTR land use map, PT Tri Kurnia Sejahtera had apparently already prepared all of it needs. Zaid Mahdani, as the president director, trusted all affairs concerning land purchase and the project’s licensing to Ferdinand Hutagalung.
Tri Kurnia took over the 3.34-hectare land through 11 purchase deeds. All were signed in the presence of Kristi Andana Yulianes, a notary with an office on Jalan Karawitan, Bandung City. The purchase was done in four stages, from September 6, 2014, to March 15, 2015.

Kaman, a land broker in Ledeng, helped Ferdinand purchase two of the largest plots of land. The 80-year-old, who lives in a semi-permanent home around 70 meters from Sahid Cleveland’s site, claims he received hundreds of millions of rupiah for making the acquisition possible. “I received cash,” said Kaman in February.

Zaid Mahdani (Photo: Kurnia Land documentation)
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Tri Kurnia also used the services of another broker, Adang Suparman. Adang’s whereabouts are unknown to this day. But his colleague Cecep, known as “Cecep Gondrong,” said he helped Adang faciliate the land purchase. “I was the one who went back and forth delivering some of the land documents to the notary,” said Cecep.

He also claimed to have met Zaid and Ferdinand several times at different locations near the project. At first, they talked about the plan to manage the Cipaku Valley together. Cecep is part of management at the Nurul Huda Cooperative, which has been leasing land located on the Tjibadak Spring—to be turned into fishing ponds—not far from the condotel project.

The talk of partnership ended without a follow up. “Tri Kurnia went ahead and built the condotel. And the city government processed the permit very quickly,” said Cecep.

After its success purchasing land, Tri Kurnia also managed to collect an approval statement by the residents of Neighborhood Unit (RW) 05, Ledeng Administrative Village, the host of the condotel’s site. To clear matters of the field, RW 05 Head Asep Mulyana said Ferdinand was assisted by Boyan. “As far as I know, it was Mang Boyan who was the company’s representative. I also have his name down as Boyan TKS (Tri Kurnia Sejahtera),” said Asep, showing Boyan’s phone number on his cellular phone screen.

According to Asep, residents approved the condotel project because they were enticed by the company’s promises. Tri Kurnia, for example, made a commitment to build buttresses to prevent landslides, sanitation facilities, and create job openings as soon as construction begins.

Boyan and Ferdinand met through a jeep community in Bandung. Boyan refused to meet when reached via telephone. Though he admitted to be actively involved in the condotel project, he denied helping Ferdinand take care of the licensing.

All field work performed by Tri Kurnia, from land purchase to the residents’ approval statement, was done simultaneously with the Regional Legislative Council (DPRD) deliberation on Bandung’s Perda RDTR Plan.

Since it was formed in 2012, Bandung DPRD’s special committee only began intensive discussions on the RDTR plan at the end of 2013, during the transition between Mayor Dada Rosada to Ridwan Kamil. The RDTR was finally approved in December 2015.

The licensing process for the condotel’s development was even more suspicious. When the RDTR deliberation had not even concluded, Tri Kurnia managed to obtain the City Information Framework (KRK) from the Bandung City government. The KRK, issued December 9, 2014, by the Bandung City Cipta Karya and Spatial Planning Services (Distarcip)—now the Spatial Planning Services—had earlier called Tri Kurnia’s property as an area meant for medium-density residences.

Besides incongruous with the land use outlined in the RTRW, the drafting of the KRK for Tri Kurnia Sejahtera was very problematic. The document signed by head of the services, Maryun Sastrakusumah, never went through Bandung City Distarcip head of Detailed Spatial Planning, a position that was, at the time, held by Rusyana. The echelon III official, in fact, had the greatest authority for evaluating the KRK’s numerous requirements, from field survey to attaching signatures on requests.

An official at the Bandung Spatial Planning Services said Zaid Mahdani’s KRK request was processed at a lightning speed. Field survey, which should have been part of procedure, was not at all performed. As a result, the natural terrain in Tri Kurnia’s land, including a river and land with an above 40-degree slope, which should have been under the protected area, was ignored. “Tri Kurnia’s KRK request document was directly given to the section head and head of the services,” said the source.

Rusyana was reluctant to comment on the KRK’s issuance for Tri Kurnia, now suspected of being procedurally flawed. “Not from me,” he said.

But Rusyana’s superior, Distarcip Head of Planning Titiek Sulandari confirmed that the KRK was missing a field survey. Titiek is now head of Distaru’s Spatial Utilization Monitoring and Control. She says the residential area designation expressed on the KRK document simply refers to the location address submitted by Tri Kurnia, namely Jalan Bukit Idaman, Lereng Administrative Village.

Titiek said she only realized that the Tri Kurnia condotel would be encroaching on land that is typical of protected areas recently, when she became involved in scrutinizing the map attached to the Perda RDTR. She said the KBU’s topography means the area should still function as a protected zone and rendered in green. “The KRK is a very early document. Not licensing. It can certainly be corrected midway,” said Titiek.

Building design for the Sahid Cleveland Condotel which was once found on the Kurnia Land website. (Documentation: Kurnia Land)

Strangely enough, not one office in the Bandung City government has the original KRK document for Tri Kurnia Sejahtera. Maryun has given up on the document’s whereabouts. According to him, original documents have gone missing from the services more than once because of how freely people can enter and leave when they want to borrow these documents. “This is why we’re now improving the online system,” said Maryun, who was assigned to head the Library and Archive Services this year.

Maryun confirmed that he signed Tri Kurnia Sejahtera’s KRK. But he denied that the letter is procedurally flawed. He also denied knowing Zaid Mahdani and Ferdinand Hutagalung.

According to Maryun, he only became acquainted with the two Tri Kurnia bosses when he attended a meeting to discuss the condotel’s zonation change lead by Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil. “At the time, the case was already talked about. I didn’t know [them] before, never met [them],” he said.

II

Lobbying Over Damaging Recommendations

Zaid and Ferdinand did plenty of maneuvering to realize the Sahid Cleveland Condotel project. Riantono, member of the Bandung City RDTR Perda special committee, for example, said he had met them twice at the DPRD building. The PDI-P Party politician said they only “had a talk.” “I only gave normative suggestions, go ahead with the process,” he said.

He said he was unaware of Tri Kurnia’s licensing process, saying that he was assigned to Commission C, which oversees development. Meanwhile, matters of licensing, said Riantoro, was the authority of Commission A, which oversees legal and government affairs.

Likewise, the change in land use mapping under the Bandung City RDTR, which does not match Bandung City’s RTRW. As Riantono recalls, there was never a discussion on changing the mapping in official forums. “I don’t have the in-depth details of the scale. That’s at the Distarcip. They know better,” he said.

An official at the Bandung City Spatial Planning Services involved in finalizing the RDTR draft regional regulation said many business players would roam the DPRD building during the deliberation process. “Their interest is in securing their land, so that the mapping will be in line with their business plan,” he said. He did not remember if Zaid and Ferdinand were among these businesspeople.

“ Namanya tata ruang, masak tidak ada perubahan.”

Ridwan Kamil

(Illustration: Pikiran Rakyat)

What’s clear is that the December 2015 deliberation yielded very positive results for Tri Kurnia. The Bandung City RDTR draft regional regulation legitimized the company’s land use by declaring a medium-density residential area. The decision contradicted the Bandung City RDTR Substantive Approval Letter (Persub) sent by the West Java provincial government to the Bandung City government and DPRD special committee three months earlier.

According to the Persub, the Sahid Cleveland Condotel site was still a green zone. Persub warns that building on a slope greater than 30 degrees is a violation.

The document was strengthened by the results of the West Java Residential Services, which point out that the location for the condotel lie on a region with a very high conservation potential index (IKP). Parts of the land are also placed on a medium movement zone with slopes or sloping riverbanks.

In February, then-Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil—who was last month inaugurated as West Java governor—said the change in the RDTR map’s color is nothing out of the ordinary. “That’s spatial planning, [unlikely] to not have changes,” he said.

Ridwan in turn questioned the West Java provincial government’s attitude, because they only took issue with the RDTR after it was passed as a regional regulation. “If changes are made after the gavel has been struck, this would show that the state isn’t consistent. Meaning there is no certainty for investors,” he said.

Still, Ridwan did not deny that he once received a visit from Tri Kurnia in his official residence, the Kota Bandung Pendopo. He sees the meeting simply as a courtesy visit by a businessperson about to invest in Bandung.

On Tri Kurnia’s licensing, such as the suspected procedurally-flawed issuance of the KRK, Ridwan said it was his subordinates who processed the request. “I don’t know by absolute memory whether those under [me] processed according to procedures,” he said. “I have so many matters to attend. Can’t keep track of specific projects.”

Tri Kurnia made a more complex maneuver to penetrate the West Java government circles. They needed to meet one more requirement so that they could process the license to build on the land that had been zoned as a residential area: a land use recommendation letter in the KBU. The recommendation falls within the province’s authority.

Dadan “Utun” Hermawan, a former Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) activist, said Ferdinand once requested his help to obtain the recommendation. Utun was known as someone with a close relationship with Deddy Mizwar. During the 2013 West Java gubernatorial election, he took part in Ahmad Heryawan-Deddy Mizwar’s campaign. Recently, Utun began leading Laskar Naga Bonar, a network of loyalists in support of Deddy, who became a gubernatorial candidate in the 2018 West Java regional head election.

But Utun claims he refused Ferdinand’s request after seeing the river and sloping land at the project’s location. “I’m an environment person. I know (local conditions), which is why I gave the suggestion to move the location,” said Utun.

He said he did not know how Tri Kurnia managed to get a recommendation for the KBU in the end. The letter was issued by the West Java Province Integrated Licensing and Investment Agency (BPMPT) three months after the Bandung City RDTR regional regulation was passed.

Later, in November 2016, the provincial government revoked the recommendation, when many began to criticize the land use mapping change for 3.34 hectares of Tri Kurnia’s land. During this period, the company began trying other avenues when processing licensing with the Bandung City government.

Deden Rukman Rumaji, a businessman, politician, and former deputy regent of the Bandung Regency, claimed he was asked by Ferdinand to lobby provincial government officials. “I was asked to communicate with Pak Anang and the deputy governor. Just the two. I wasn’t the one who went to the city [government] and the DPRD,” said Deden, who is also former chairman of the National Mandate Party’s Bandung chapter.

Deden was referring to Anang Sudarna, head of West Java’s environment office. Anang and Deddy Mizwar were the most vocal among critics of the revised mapping under Bandung City’s RDTR. Once, he slammed the table hard when arguing with Zaid Mahdani in a West Java DPRD Commission I’s working meeting where Tri Kurnia and the provincial government finally met at the end of November 2016.

Deden set a condition to accepting Tri Kurnia’s request for help. He asked Zaid Mahdani to help him with a residential project on a 200-hectare land in Soreang, not far from the entrance to the Soreang-Pasir Koja Toll Road. According to Deden, the problems plaguing Tri Kurnia’s land would not have happened if he had been involved from the very start. “When I help someone, [the process] would be detailed, very meticulous,” said Deden.

Deddy Mizwar also said that he was approached by Tri Kurnia Sejahtera on several occasions. “They came to me. I said no,” said Deddy. In the end, Tri Kurnia decided to take matters to court. They filed a suit against the KBU management recommendation’s revocation with the Bandung State Admnistrative Court at the end of 2016.

Our team visited Tri Kurnia’s office in Jatinegara, East Jakarta, twice, in July and last September. Zaid was never present. Written questions sent through a confirmation letter left at the office were never responded to. Zaid’s home address listed on the company’s deed, written as located in Bidara Cina Administrative Village, East Jakarta, was not found. Neither was his name recognized by local neighborhood unit staff.

Ferdinand has also refused our request for an interview and did not wish to comment via text message. “If the provincial government’s review is correct, they will win at the Administrative Court. That’s the logic, no need to say it, you can answer it yourself,” he said, when asked about the suspicion that the change in color on the Bandung City RDTR map was made on Tri Kurnia’s “special request.”

III

Dead End Struggle over the KBU

The West Java provincial government has made attempts to thwart the mapping change of the 3.34-hectare land in the Cipaku Valley for two years, without results. They have not filed for a cassation after the appeal attempt at the Jakarta State Administrative Court was rejected. The September 2017 decision reinforced the decision of the Bandung State Administrative Court in favor of PT Try Kurnia Sejahtera.

Diding Abidin, West Java Province head of investment implementation control, said the legal bureau team sees no chance at winning at the Supreme Court. “Because since the start, the State Administrative Court’s decision did not have to do with a violation in the color change for the land use,” said Didin not long ago.

According to the West Java provincial government legal bureau team’s review, the State Administrative Court made the decision only based on administrative issues. In line with the governor’s authority to delegate, the judge said the letter revoking Tri Kurnia’s recommendation was illegitimate because it did not include the phrase: “on behalf of the West Java governor.”

With the Court’s decision, Tri Kurnia’s recommendation letter for land use in the KBU is again in effect. Meaning, the licensing process for building the condo hotel in the Cipaku region can continue. “The ball is now with the Bandung City government,” said Diding.

As of today, the plan to build a condotel in the Cipaku Village is at a standstill while processing the Environmental Impact Analysis (Amdal). Sahid Cleveland Condotel no longer appears on the list of projects on the website of the Kurnia Land Group, PT Tri Kurnia Sejahtera’s business umbrella. Only three projects are being marketed: Sahid Eminence Ciloto-Puncak, Sol Bali Jimbaran, and Melia Bintan Indonesia.

Condition of the North Bandung Region (Video: Documentation of the "Investigation With Tempo")

According to Asep Warlan Yusuf, a spatial planning professor at Parahyangan Catholic University’s law school, the only way for the West Java provincial government to salvage the 3.34 green area in the Cipaku Valley is by requesting a material review of the Bandung City RDTR regional regulation. “[The regional government can] go ahead to the Supreme Court. Review the RDTR regional regulation. It will be one package. If the [residential rea assignment] is cancelled under the regional regulation, the permit will automatically be canceled,” he said.

On the other hand, as long as the land is assigned as a residential area under the RDTR, it’s within the rights of the land owner to request a permit to build the condotel. The problem is as intractable as weed. Environmental activisits state their resolve to continue fighting if the KBU’s encroachment is still “legalized.”

West Java Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Dadan Ramdan has even challenged Ridwan Kamil to fulfill his promise to protect the environment in KBU, made during the 2018 gubernatorial election. “Remember, Ridwan Kamil is today the governor of West Java, leader of the government institution that is truly certain that there was a foul play in Cipaku,” said Dadan.

IV

The Result of Pro-Investment Regulation

BUDI Brahmantyo’s last message has come to fruition. That day, the second week of February, the geologist from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) warned against a more pressing danger than North Bandung’s diminishing function as a water catchment area, should development continue: flash floods.

Budi explained that the soil structure in the KBU is dominated by old and hard rocks, meaning only a limited amount of rainwater is absorbed by the soil. Without forests and trees, surface water will not be contained. “The area is at a high risk of erosion. Very high risk of flash floods,” said Budi at ITB’s geology building.

As he predicted, a flash flood rampaged through Cicaheum, Bandung City, the following month. The Cipamokolan and Cicabe Rivers, which end in the KBU, overflowed. Water and mud spilled over hard into Jalan AH Nasution, Jatihandap Administrative Village, Mandalajati Subdistricting, cutting transportation routes. Over 10 four-wheel vehicles were dragged by the water as far as 4-5 kilometers. Thousands of homes in Cicaheum were flooded.

Flash flooding in the City of Bandung. (Photo: Pikiran Rakyat)

According to Budi, the flash flood risk in Bandung escalated because of the KBU’s natural fortress, many in the form of steep slopes. The narrow tributaries there, such as the Cipamokolan, run perpendicular to its main stem, the Citarum River, which runs across the reigon at the base of the KBU.

Like a giant bowl, the KBU is one of its convex sides. Bandung, on the other hand, a 208-year old city with a population of 2.5 million, is located right at the base of this bowl. Which is why, said Budi, the KBU’s function as a protected area must be restored. “If [they] can’t restore its function, well, preserve what’s still there.

Remaining forests, don’t cut more [trees],” said Budi. The 55-year-old man born in Bandung died in an accident on the Padalarang-Cileunyi Toll Road in April.

Like Budi, Yudha Mediawan, head of the Citarum River Management Center (BBWS), believes that because of Bandung’s topography, at the base of the “bowl,” all rivers that run to the city carry the potential of causing flash floods.

Although equally destructive, flash floods are more dangerous than regular floods, a routine occurrence in the regions around Citarum. “Regular floods cause thousands to evacuate within a few days or months,” said Yudha, “But flash floods, which happen in under two hours, can be life-threatening.”

The flash flood that ravaged Cicaheum in March was indeed not the first disaster to strike in the Bandung basin. Eleven other similar disasters have struck a number of regions in Bandung and Cimahi in the past eight years. Almost each one caused fatalities. All of these flash flood are thought to be the result of changes in the KBU’s land use mapping.

In fact, efforts to protect the KBU had already been made in the 1980s. Aang Kunaefi, the 10th governor of West Java, issued Decision Letter No. 181.1/SK.1624-Bapp/1982 on Land Use in the Core Region of North Bandung Raya. The regulation designates part of the KBU as a protected forest area. The land with a slope of 0-8 percent on an elevation of under 1,000 meters above sea level can be managed as a farming area with no conditions, while the rest is meant for urban residential areas and communities with a number of requirements.

The decision letter was followed by the issuance of West Java Governor Instruction No. 640/SK.1625-Bapp/1982 on Development Licensing in the Core Region of North Bandung Raya. Through this instruction, the governor ordered the regent and mayor to monitor development projects and to be selective in awarding permits in the KBU.

Since then, at least nine regional and central government policies regulating the KBU have been issued. In the regional autonomy era, the West Java provincial government issued Regional Regulation No. 2/2008 on North Bandung Region’s Spatial Planning. According to this regulation, land use permits in the KBU fall under the authority of the regent or mayor. The requirement is a recommendation from the provincial government.

Later, the condition was seen as ineffective for protecting the KBU. Revision to the regulation was again performed and Regional Regulation No. 2/2016 on the Guidelines of Control for the North Bandung Region as a Strategic Region of the West Java Province. The regulation is claimed to be stricter on licensing. A governor’s recommendation must first be granted before a land use permit can be processed by the regency and city governments.

Deddy Mizwar, former West Java deputy governor, feels that the old regulation had many holes. If the governor did not give a KBU land use recommendation, the decision to issue a permit would still have been returned to the regency and city governments. “Meaning, permits are the city and regency’s. As if [one] doesn’t need a recommendation,” said Deddy.

Neither did the old regulation outline clear sanctions for violaters. Before, each violation may be compensated by creating an open green space to replace stolen KBU land. But the new regulation eliminates compensation. “If [someone is] naughty, [they are] stopped, taken apart,” said Deddy.

But until today, no building in the KBU has truly been destroyed. On the contrary, there has been growing interest in the region. Throughout the first quarter of last year, the One Door Investment and Integrated Services received 90 land use requests in the KBU. Of said number, as many as 40 requests to build homes, gust homes and other buildings were approved. The figure adds to the long list of requests made by 1,159 petitioners throughout 2014-2016.

Chay Asdak, hydrology expert from the Padjadjaran University, is pessimistic that regulatory transformations will be implemented if the intention to protect the KBU is faced with government policies that tend to be pro-business interests. “Policy is only business as usual,” he said.

Like Budi Brahmantyo, Chay warned that no other region can replace KBU’s important role as a strategic water resources conservation region in the Bandung Basin. He believes that the government and the people suffer from the “boiled frog syndrome” in responding to the KBU’s conditions. “Many don’t see a problem,” said Chay. “They don’t realize they’re in danger until one day they won’t be able to escape that danger.”