Trenggalek: Towards a City Without Slums

Through hard work, public education, and working closely with the community, the Trenggalek District Government has made much progress in improving the conditions of the urban slums, a big step towards Trenggalek’s vision to be liveable and sustainable.

June 2020 | Report

Drainage improvement works were carried out by the community in Ngares Village to mitigate flooding in the future. Source: Trenggalek District Government


Don’t be alarmed by cries of “Meroket” while walking around the quaint Trenggalek. Residents of the Indonesian regency have fallen in love with the local term for “skyrocket” because of Regent Mochamad Nur Arifin’s “Trenggalek MEROKET ”campaign. Housewives and children from the rural villages and former squatters often chant it during community clean-up events in the town or along the beaches. MEROKET is an abbreviation for Trenggalek’s three development goals—an advanced economy; creative people and organisations; and sustainable ecosystem—and has become a catchphrase as the community and organisations rally around the government to realise a shared vision of prosperity.


Trenggalek is located in East Java and stretches across an area of approximately 1,300 km2, of which two-thirds are mountainous. As of 2015, some 800,000 residents live in its 14 sub-regencies and 157 villages. Like many Indonesian cities, Trenggalek’s economy achieved a high growth rate of 5.41% in 2014, and it is predominantly led by agriculture, followed by trade and manufacturing. Although small in size compared to other cities, the district government is determined to develop Trenggalek into a liveable city with a sustainable environment and growing economy. In 2018, three of its leaders—former Vice-Regent and current Regent, Mr Mochamad Nur Arifin; Head of Infrastructure Planning Division, Mr Heri Yulianto; and Head of the Information and Application Infrastructure Division, Iwan Kukuh Arrianto —participated in the Temasek Foundation Leaders in Urban Governance Programme (TFLUGP). The Centre for Liveable Cities and Temasek Foundation recently visited the city to follow up on their progress.


The Regent of Trenggalek and representatives from CLC and Temasek Foundation were asked to take a photo with the residents of the Tamanan Village who had built a Non-Governmental Environmental Parks and Guard Posts during their inaugural ceremony on 18 November 18 2019.Source: Trenggalek District Government


Under the leadership of former Regent Mr Emil Dardak and his successor Mr Mochamad Nur Arifin, the district government has initiated many policies to improve the conditions of its urban slums. An infrastructural development strategy was devised as part of the National Slum Upgrading Program (NSUP) 2016-2020 to give slum-dwellers better access to basic services. Kota Tanpa Kumuh (KOTAKU), or City Without Slums, aimed to upgrade all 0.699 km2 of Trenggalek’s slum area by 2019. However, it was hindered by a lack of synergy among government organisations as well as low public awareness of the benefits of a clean and sustainable environment. Regent Mochamad addressed these issues with lessons he learnt from the TFLUGP. As part of its slum upgrading efforts, the government has come to recognise the importance of the environment in formulating policies. Preventing pollution is more effective and cheaper than cleaning it up, and a clean environment not only improves the quality of life but makes Trenggalek attractive for tourism and foreign investment.


The district government sought to create a culture of cleanliness by gaining public support through campaigns and community clean-up initiatives. Outreach efforts were organised in the community and schools to educate the people on the benefits of healthy living, better garbage management as well as how upgrading and resettlement will improve their environment. The government also worked with communities to co-create innovative initiatives in a fun and informal way. They included community gardening, mass clean-up competitions among schools and villages, and community decoration events to create a sense of shared identity such as planting and mural painting.


“The community put in the effort to clean their homes and the rivers. Although I cannot provide much financially, but I shall pay by giving as many selfies with them as possible,” said Regent Mochamad.


Before (left) and after (right). The road and drainage development in RT 6 / RW 2, Tamanan Village benefitted approximately 5,106 residents. Source: Trenggalek District Government


A river and beach cleaning event was held in Cengkrong Breach on 19 November 2019, which was attended by approximately 500 participants consisting of environmental groups, students and the community. Source: Trenggalek District Government


River cleaning activities were also carried out. Source: Trenggalek District Government


The Regent of Trenggalek, together with the participants of the Beach Cleaning Event, conducted an educational campaign to involve the community in Watulimo District to manage waste properly. Source: Trenggalek District Government


Besides rallying the public, the district government synergised its organisations’ KOTAKU-related slum upgrading programs and the Trenggalek Membangun (Trenggalek Development Programme) to strengthen implementation across local and regional levels. An inter-agency workgroup, the Team of Housing, Resettlement, Drinking Water and Sanitation, was setup to oversee the programme at the regency level, while the district government successfully integrated its upgrading plans with the Central Government’s Medium Term Regional Development Plan (RPJMD) and the Annual Development Planning (PKPD). At the grassroots level, the government also encouraged public participation in planning and implementing slum-upgrading initiatives. Villages were empowered to develop working groups to participate systematically, from planning to implementation and maintenance.


The slum upgrading program focused on improving road and drainage infrastructure using funding pooled from the Central Government, District Government and the community. The district government also provided training as well as materials for the community to carry out the improvement works, including planting of trees and decorations. One challenge encountered were fishermen who resisted resettling from the coastal areas because they relied on the sea for their livelihood. Instead, the community, who belong to the higher income group in Trenggalek, were made to adhere to environmental requirements such as maintaining clean beaches, providing proper sanitation in their homes and widening the roads next to the beaches.


Residents in Kelutan Kelurahan carried out road and drainage improvement work. Source: Trenggalek District Government


By the end of 2019, all of Trenggalek’s slum areas were successfully improved. The progress, achievements and funding contributions were displayed in the different villages to communicate these collaborative efforts in a transparent manner. The initiatives not only improved the villagers’ lives, but also instilled a sense of ownership and even pride. At an upgraded residential area, villagers greeted the Regent and his wife with shouts of joy. They were also proud and excited to give the delegation a tour of the improvement works carried out.


Banners displaying the progress of upgrading works and funding contributions were displayed in every village. Source: CLC


Trenggalek continues to work towards becoming a more liveable and sustainable city. The district government is working closely with stakeholders to ensure investors and developers comply with environmental regulations in industrial and infrastructure development. As part of a goal to attract tourists by transforming Trenggalek into a “City in a Forest”, the government has implemented initiatives such as mangrove conservation, cleaning up its rivers and home-stay tourism in villages. Regent Mochamad is also developing a long-term strategy, such as developing fish farming in its calm bay, attracting investors and leveraging on an upcoming regional airport in the neighbouring city of Kediri to bring in more jobs. These various efforts will not only improve the physical state of Trenggalek, but uplift its community spirit and social cohesion too.


The author would like to thank the Trenggalek District Government and Mr Teo Jing Kok, Deputy Director of CLC for their inputs on the article.


This report was first published in the Better Cities Jun 2020 issue.


About the Writer


Kuang Jin Yi
Assistant Director
Centre for Liveable Cities


Jin Yi works on capability development programmes and is responsible for partnership and advisory work for Indonesia at the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC). She was previously a researcher at CLC, where she studied issues relating to water, greening and energy. Jin Yi holds a Bachelor of Environmental Studies from the National University of Singapore.