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National Engineers must Dominate Sunda Strait Bridge Project

19 October 2018 23:28 WIB

In the past year, Wiratman Wangsadinata’s name has often been mentioned in relation to the construction of the Sunda Strait Bridge. Formerly a partner of the Prosperous Banten Lampung Construction (GBLS) consortium, which was set up by businessman Tomy Winata and who owns the majority shares, Wiratman suddenly made an about-turn. The retired engineering professor of the respected Bandung Institute of Technology did not approve of his partner’s plan to work with foreign contractors.

Now the plan to build the bridge, which was first conceived 16 years ago, hangs in limbo. The government is divided over the issue. Some ministers support Presidential Regulation No. 86/2011 on the Development of the Sunda Strait Strategic Area and Infrastructure, which authorizes the GBLS consortium to proceed with the bridge construction, including the feasibility study, while others disapprove of it. The ministers within Team 7 formed last year to resolve this matter have yet to produce a solution.

“The main problem is that no one dares to come up with a decision,” Wiratman told Tempo.

The Sunda Strait Bridge is not Wiratman’s first major project. For the past five decades, Wiratman has taken part in about 5,000 construction projects including the Ampera Bridge in Palembang and the restoration of the Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java.


Last Thursday, Tempo reporters Agoeng Wijaya, Anton William and Mahardika Satriaserta interviewed 78-year-old Wiratman at his home in Bandung, West Java. Excerpts:


What caused the Sunda Strait Bridge project to be in limbo?

There are many reasons, but they are not technical obstructions. I have proven them. The Sundayang Strait channel, which they said was very deep, is nonsense. It is only 150 meters deep, and only about 3 kilometers wide. This can be resolved by building the bridge with the latest technology.

So, if the obstacles are not technical, what are they?

I have studied the Sunda Strait Bridge idea since 1997. At that time, I had just returned from Italy to study plans to build the 3,300-meter-long Messina Bridge, which connects the Italian mainland with the island of Sicily. So, when in 2005 Pak Tomy Winata offered me the chance to revive the bridge idea, I welcomed it. At the start of our collaboration, everything went well. Apparently, without my knowledge, all of the funds some Rp200 trillion were to come from China. Chinese consultants were to design and plan the project. I protested. I was very disappointed, very unwilling to allow foreign parties to dominate the project. This project must be an opportunity for national engineers to take part.

But isn’t it a fact that Indonesia is not that experienced in managing such a huge project?

That is true. We must work with experts from everywhere. I don’t deny they may be more experienced than us. But foreign parties must be under the coordination of Indonesians. They should just function as advisors, and in the process, we can learn from them. This project can give our engineers an extraordinary added value, unlike the case of the Suramadu (Surabaya-Madura) Bridge.

What’s wrong with the Suramadu Bridge?

We got nothing out of that project, except the bridge itself. Everything was done by Chinese contractors. Our people only got a share of doing the concrete, which was nothing. There was no opportunity to learn. So that this does not happen again, I sent letters to the ministers of finance, public works, state-owned enterprises and that of national planning and development.


So, in your view, what is the best way to make this project happen?

An infrastructure project this big, anywhere in the world, is always operated and managed by the government. Look at China. Their economy grew so fast because they built the infrastructure, even without feasibility studies and so forth. The important thing is that they built. Who did it? The government. The rest will follow. Pak Agus Marto said the same thing. It is the government which should be carrying out this project. We need a firm and determined leader. The infrastructure problem cannot be resolved by doing business as usual.

If the Sunda Strait Bridge gets to be implemented, won’t Jakarta be affected by it? For example, won’t this create more traffic congestion as vehicles from Sumatra rush in?

Yes, Jakarta has a problem of its own that urgently needs to be solved. Governor Jokowi seems serious about looking at the problem. The mass rapid transit project has begun, even though it is not evident yet on the ground. When that is built, and the TransJakarta bus system is improved and the toll road project is carried out, surely we can solve the traffic congestion problem. I remember when the traffic in Bangkok was excruciating, yet today everything flows because there’s the MRT and the flyovers. If Jakarta does not change, next year its citizens will not be able to move. Total jam!

Do you think the MRT can be built in Jakarta?

Oh yes. The study is quite in-depth, particularly on the first phase, covering the Lebak Bulus-Blok M section then on to the Hotel Indonesia circle. It needs special technology in the following phase, going towards Jakarta Kota, because the land there is not firm.

Won’t the MRT construction disrupt traffic or affect buildings over it?

No. Today, the technology is very sophisticated, using a tunnel-boring machine, which works underground like a giant worm. Overhead, the tremors will not be felt at all.

If it can be built underground, why should part of the MRT be overland, and use the flyover?

The overland section will cover the Lebak Bulus to Blok M route, and then it will go underground towards the Hotel Indonesia circle. The reason is that it costs less; the rails above are needed because this MRT model goes up and down, to conserve energy. Every time it goes under, it uses minimum energy until the next station.

Will the floods be a problem for the MRT?

Yes, the flooding problem must be immediately resolved.

There is now a new idea of building a giant sea wall at the Jakarta Bay area to contain flooding. What do you think?

I feel that the problem with the floods must be resolved upstream, not downstream, much less the estuary.

The complete interview is available in this week’s edition of Tempo English.


sumber: https://en.tempo.co/read/481021/national-engineers-must-dominate-sunda-strait-bridge-project