A reservoir of maps: topographical maps of Java before the building of embankment dams

The maps from the KITLV collection that are selected for georeferencing consist for a large part of sheets of topographical map series. The Topographisch Bureau in Batavia was the largest colonial mapping agency in Asia. Only for Java, various series on scales 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 were published in the first half of the twentieth century, as well as series of the residences on scale 1:20,000 starting from the late nineteenth century. Furthermore, topographical map series on scale 1:50,000, 1:100,000 and 1:250,000 were published by the Americans during World War II.

For this blog we concentrate on the 1:25,000 map series and the region between Jakarta and Bandung. In this area three large reservoirs are created on the Citarum River: Waduk Jatiluhur, Waduk Cirata and Waduk Saguling. When we compare the topographical maps of the early twentieth century with the modern situation on Google Satellite, we see the topography changed dramatically.

The first example shows the northern part of Waduk Jatiluhur. The building of this first embankment dam started in 1957. The Jatiluhur Dam became operational in 1967. The dam, built for hydroelectric power generation, water supply, flood control, irrigation and aquaculture, is located in the upper right corner. The map sheet is published in 1918. We see a relatively small meandering river Citarum dominating the map image. Today half of the area of this map sheet is covered by the artificial lake.

1 Jatiluhur
Overlay of the 1918 topographical map of the Waduk Jatiluhur area on Google Maps
Click here for the georeferenced 1918 sheet of Waduk Jatiluhur

In the 1980’s the two other dams were built further upstream, resulting in the involuntary resettlement of over 100,000 people. In the second example we see the northeastern part of Waduk Cirata. The Cirata Dam was primarily constructed for hydroelectric power generation. The topographical map sheet was published in 1920. ¬†Apart from the fact that the water body before the dam is larger than the earlier situation, the width of the river behind the dam clearly decreased. Despite the changed topography, the map was easily georeferenced by using control points along the – still existing – major roads.

2 Cirata
Overlay of the 1920 toographical map of the Waduk Cirata area on Google Satellite
Click here for the georeferenced 1920 sheet of Waduk Cirata

The third example shows the southern part of Waduk Saguling, the most upstream reservoir of the Citarum River. The map sheet was published in 1923. In comparison with the other two reservoirs, the outline of this lake is more erratic in shape because of the hilly nature of the terrain. It is striking how accurate this outline matches the contours, indicating the altitude, on the topographical map.

3 Saguling
Overlay of the 1923 topographical map of the Waduk Saguling area on Google Maps (detail)
Click here for the georeferenced 1923 sheet of Waduk Saguling

The three examples of locations were the landscape changed dramatically, show how useful historical maps can be to understand the history of the landscape and the impact of human interference, in this case the building of embankment dams, on the spatial environment. Accurate map series, like the early twentieth century topographical map of Java 1:25,000, are extremely useful for such analyses.

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