Under the Highway By skye paine

In a dark, dirty alleyway a child plays among the rubbish.

It is her backyard. Her home.

The smell of decomposing rubbish pervades the air.

The roaring sound of the overhead highway can be heard.

The air is thick from the pollution of the nearby cars and trucks.

Yet it is difficult to ignore the radiant smile that lights up her face. The pure joy and laughter as her siblings come running towards her.

They are holding an obscure gadget they found whilst playing in a pile of garbage.

For these children, this is just an ordinary day in the life.

But there is much more to this story.

Under the main highway of Indonesia's capital, lies a deep secret.

For more than a decade, over 500 Indonesians have been living illegally under the Port Toll Road.

The Port Toll Road, otherwise referred to as the Jalan Tol Pelabuhan by locals, is a highway toll operated by the Indonesian-based company PT Citra Marga Nusaphala Persada.

After completing construction in late 1992, the highway toll has since become home to hundreds of Indonesian families.

Overtime, the area has grown into a small community.

Residents have constructed self-made shacks no bigger than the size of a bathroom, housing up to 6 family members at a time.

Resident Khadijah has lived under the highway for more than 10 years. She operates a small vendor cart, selling food and other objects out of her home as a primary source of income.

"I moved in with my family after a vacant lot became available"

"We pay nearly one million Rupiah a month to live here, but we do not know who we pay the money to or who owns the area" she said.

Since the illegal operation began, residents have paid large amounts of money to live in conditions that are worse than slums.

Running water is scarce and residents often lack basic toilet and shower amenities.

The area is a dumping ground for trucks to dispose of garbage from the markets

Locals say the owners of the area are responsible for the trucks, which are constantly coming and going.

These trucks carry goods which are sold at the local markets and often include fruit, wood and fish.

Over recent years the Indonesian government has faced mounting pressure to address the issue.

But with over 34 million Indonesians currently living in slums, it is extremely difficult for the government to regulate these illegal operations.

For now, residents of the area will continue to live in their homes - under the highway.

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