Rivers as organisational structures: Evolving attitudes toward water in Jakarta, Indonesia

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Water management practices formerly embedded in Southeast Asian urbanisation have been compromised in favour of its modern development policies. In the first millennium CE, around 80% of Javanese settlements were proximal to rivers, with Javanese water systems benefiting villages and communities. The Ciliwung River, in Western Java, played a central role over three centuries of Dutch colonial rule. While large-scale irrigation works were commenced from c.1850, they lacked the local organisation of the endemic systems. The evolving role of Jakarta’s rivers remains unclear, despite the city’s history being well mapped. We study the evolution of the complex relationship between the city and its rivers, with a
precise focus on Ciliwung. Here, a long-term social evolution is studied, with the colonial period providing context for the study. Using archaeological and historical data the relationships of settlements to the river are analysed and drawn. Initial results show a clear relationship between the city’s growth and waterways, indicating Ciliwung as a key structuring element. However, results also stress the transformation of settlements, and later orientation away from the river, parallel to ongoing environmental degradation. This pattern of riverside
development is prevalent in urbanising Southeast Asia, and a better understanding of its historical contexts can be used to understand cultural precepts on rivers today.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes
EventEuropean Association for Southeast Asian Studies Conference (EuroSEAS 2013) - Lisbon, Portugal, Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 2 Jul 20135 Jul 2013


ConferenceEuropean Association for Southeast Asian Studies Conference (EuroSEAS 2013)
Abbreviated titleEuroSEAS 2013


  • rivers
  • colonial history
  • environment and behaviour
  • longue duree
  • Landscape history
  • postcolonial
  • Indonesia
  • Southeast Asia

Cite this

Prescott, M. F. (2013). Rivers as organisational structures: Evolving attitudes toward water in Jakarta, Indonesia. 87-87. Abstract from European Association for Southeast Asian Studies Conference (EuroSEAS 2013), Lisbon, Portugal. https://mgimo.ru/files2/y07_2013/240728/Proceedings%20final-dia26(1).pdf