Indonesia | Livable Cities, Climate Change, Gender

Water-Sensitive Development for Slum Communities

Urban footpaths with nature-based designs and other water-sensitive improvements have transformed slums in Makassar City, Indonesia for the better, and the makeover is just beginning. The project component in Indonesia, financed by the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund, piloted green technology to improve the lives and health of the urban poor.


Nature-Based Design Footpaths. Slum residents in Makassar City, Indonesia, like this woman and her child, used to either balance on bamboo rafts or wade in stagnant floodwaters. Now, they walk on paved urban footpaths designed by the residents themselves.


Regional: Revitalization of Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) using a Water-Sensitive Approach

Project Cost


  • Financing Partners
    • Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund under the Urban Financing Partnership Facility $196,000 (Indonesia)
    • Urban Environmental Infrastructure Fund under the Urban Financing Partnership Facility $329,000 (Fiji)

Approval Date

September 2018


December 2020

Partnership Results

Community designed water-sensitive infrastructure, including local sanitation systems, wetlands and biofiltration gardens, stormwater harvesting, community-designed paved footpaths
Improved community capacity for operation and maintenance of water-sensitive infrastructure
Replication of the project in other informal settlements in Indonesia and in Suva, Fiji


The monsoon season is always met with anxiety in Batua, a small multiethnic community in Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia. For several months every year, the wet season spells inconvenience and additional family expenses as flood levels could rise anywhere between one and 1.5 meters. This poses huge challenges for simple daily activities such as sending children to school, collecting water from the main road, or selling goods in the market.

In an effort to alleviate the poor conditions, each household in the community would contribute $10 to build communal bamboo rafts and footpaths so they can navigate across the dirty floodwater. Adding to their plight, typhoons are becoming increasingly stronger and the duration of the monsoon season now fluctuates, all consequences of climate change. This seasonal flooding, coupled with the lack of access to basic water and sanitation services that lead to higher incidences of waterborne diseases, is a chronic burden of the community.

Responding to these needs, ADB and the Sustainable Development Institute of Monash University partnered with the City Government of Makassar to improve the living and accessibility conditions in the marginalized community. ADB’s Regional: Revitalization of Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) using a Water-Sensitive Approach (Indonesia component), financed by the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) under the Urban Financing Partnership Facility, supported the piloting of a nature-based, water sensitive approach and technology. RISE is an action research program, supported by ADB and other development agencies, working at the intersections of health, environment, water, and sanitation.


The pilot in Makassar City, Indonesia represents the first adaptation of the RISE water-sensitive approach to infrastructure in a development context. The Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC), an ADB knowledge partner, developed this water-sensitive approach. CRCWSC endeavors to change the way cities and towns are designed, built, and managed in ways that highlight the value of water in socio-economic development and growth. Using this RISE approach, the project set out activities involving residents to transform the slum community into a water-sensitive green space.

With help from the residents, the project designed specific water infrastructure appropriate for the community, such as for rainwater harvesting; wastewater treatment and recycling; community-based sanitation; nature-based water treatment; and flood controls. In Batua, there was no networked water supply and sanitation infrastructure, so localized solutions that harness the power of nature were deemed most suited. Local sanitation systems were built with wetlands, biofiltration gardens, stormwater harvesting, and paved footpaths.

The water-sensitive infrastructure was installed, operated, and maintained in target site households through parallel funding by other RISE partners.

The project then developed the community’s capacity for operation and maintenance of the water-sensitive infrastructure. All members of the community, including children, participated in various dialogues and visioning exercises to find ways by which they could contribute in the construction and maintenance. To enhance the sense of place-making, women in the community volunteered to design and paint colorful square patterns on the footpaths that would represent their ethnic identities: Makaressarese, Buginese, Timor, and Torajan.


Bambang Susantono, ADB Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, along with City Mayor Iqbal Suhaeb and Australia’s Consul General Richard Matthews, officially unveiled this pilot demonstration site, covering 11 households, in October 2019. The now vibrant community will serve as inspiration for improving livability and access through nature-based solutions.

Slum Upgrades in Indonesia

ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa poses for a selfie with Aulia Febriani, a young resident of Makassar, Indonesia. ADB is helping to improve the standard of living in poor areas around the city. Read More >

In March 2020, new ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa met with residents of Batua to find out first-hand how the program is impacting their lives. The visit was Mr. Asakawa’s first trip as ADB President to see and understand a range of ADB-supported projects in South East Asia. RISE was selected as one of a handful of ADB-supported projects in Makassar to show the President an innovative community decentralised approach to revitalisation.

In both visits, the women of Batua expressed their sincere appreciation for the project. They are no longer worried about their children falling from bamboo rafts and rickety footpaths. They also save time in collecting water and other supplies, and their relatives and sellers visit more often. The transformation of the neighborhood has definitely established a closer bond among the residents and created a sense of pride in something that they were all a part of.

President Asakawa said, “This project demonstrates how collaboration with big donors like ADB and leading research institutions like Monash University can make people’s lives different. I hope we will enhance our collaboration not just here, but everywhere.”

The project will be replicated in six additional informal settlements in Makassar, through a grant from UCCRTF. Likewise, another pilot is being set up in Suva, Fiji, funded by the Urban Environmental Infrastructure Fund under the Urban Financing Partnership Facility.

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