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Unstoppable urbanisation of Indonesia calls for interdisciplinary partnerships

More than half of the Indonesian population lives in cities. What does this mean for public health? How sustainable are these megacities? This is the subject of the ‘Urban Transitions’ Summer Academy on West Java. This summer course is also the kick-off for a renewed interdisciplinary partnership between Indonesian universities and Leiden University.

Urbanisation causes air pollution

Less than a century ago, just five per cent of Indonesians lived in cities; that number has now grown to more fifty per cent. This explosive urbanisation is giving rise to positive developments on the one hand, such as greater prosperity, but at the same time these conglomerations also lead to major problems. Air pollution and an urban lifestyle cause conditions such as asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Deforestation also causes more life-threatening flooding in coastal areas. This and other major societal issues call for an interdisciplinary approach. This is the subject of the  Urban transitions. Heritage, health and sustainability in the smart city’  Summer Academy taking place from 9 to 14 July in Depok on West Java.

Interdisciplinary research

Leiden University is currently working with fifteen Indonesian universities, and  has intensive partnerships with eight of these. Traditionally, these contacts are maintained via individual faculties. Leiden University's new regional coordinator for Indonesia, Renée van Kessel-Hagesteijn, is organising this Summer Academy. Her aim is also to streamline the contacts with Indonesian universities to facilitate greater interdisciplinary cooperation between the faculties and universities. The work of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Global Heritage and Development is already highly interdisciplinary and the Centre is also involved in diverse research projects in Indonesia. 

Deforestation increases the likelihood of dangerous flooding

From infectious diseases to sustainable cities

As well as Indonesian scientists involved in the summer course, Leiden researchers will also be giving lectures in Depok. Maria Yazdanbakhsh, professor and head of the Parasitology Department of the LUMC, will give a lecture on the relationship between infectious diseases and diabetes. Her LUMC colleagues will talk about changing patterns of disease as a consequence of urbanisation. Arnold Tukker, professor of Industrial Ecology, will address how cities can be structured more sustainably. Anthropologist Bart Barendregt from Social and Behavioural Sciences will talk about the effects of digitisation and give lectures on Big Data and inclusion and exclusion in the digital society.  Professor of Contemporary Indonesian Studies David Henley from Humanities will analyse the history of Indonesian urbanisation. Legal issues such as changing land rights are dealt with in the lecture by Professor Adriaan Bedner.

A slum district in Djakarta

Long-term collaboration on urban challenges

The Summer Academy is aimed towards Indonesian students, PhD candidates and new researchers. During the summer course they will already write research proposals on the urban challenges discussed. Van Kessel-Hagesteijn explains: ‘This Summer Academy is the start of a long-term programme in which Leiden and Indonesian scientists will research urban developments together - in Indonesia, as well as worldwide.' 

Since as early as the eighteenth century Leiden scholars have conducted research in Indonesia on languages, cultures, biodiversity and tropical diseases. Conversely, Indonesian students and scientists have come to Leiden to study and carry out research here. Indonesia is one of the three focal areas in Leiden University's international strategy. The other two regions are Latin America and China.

Text: Linda van Putten
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