Jumat, 07 September 2012

[PERS-Indonesia] Indonesian Lives Risked on ‘World’s Most Polluted’ River + A Community Struggles With Jakarta’s Water Qualit


Ref: Agaknya sungai-sungai tercemar dan kwalitas air bersih sama dengan air kotor adalah hal yang tidak penting bagi kehidupan penduduk NKRI, sebab mungkin ada problem-problem lain yang dianggap lebih penting untuk diatasi oleh penguasa, sekalipun air bersih adalah kebutuhan utama bagi manusia hidup sehat dan sejahtera.

Indonesian Lives Risked on 'World's Most Polluted' River
September 07, 2012

A man uses a fishing new to collect plastic waste from the Citarum river in Bandung in West Java on July 6, 2012. A water source for the capital Jakarta, the Citarum river has succumbed to pollution through sewage and industrial waste. (AFP Photo/Timur Matahari) A man uses a fishing new to collect plastic waste from the Citarum river in Bandung in West Java on July 6, 2012. A water source for the capital Jakarta, the Citarum river has succumbed to pollution through sewage and industrial waste. (AFP Photo/Timur Matahari)
Sukamaju. With dozens of bright green rice paddies, flocks of kites in the sky and children laughing nearby, at first glance the village of Sukamaju in western Java has all the charms of rural Indonesia.

But the idyllic setting is spoiled by a strong stench rising from the Citarum river that flows in the distance, thick with mounds of garbage and plastic bags dumped on its banks.

This immense aquatic rubbish bin winds 297 kilometers (185 miles) across the island of Java, cutting through the sprawling Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

Labelled "the most-polluted in the world" by a local commission of government agencies and NGOs charged with its clean-up, the river is the only source of water for 15 million Indonesians who live on its banks, despite the risks to health and crops.

In the village of Sukamaju, not far from the bustling West Java capital of Bandung, a well at a small village square serves as a public shower. Without any other water source in the village, it is connected directly to the canal.

Noor, a villager in her 40s, has had white patches on her arms for the past six months.

"When I first started itching, it was always after washing here. It's because of the contaminated water in the river. It's the factories' fault," she said.

"I don't know what this disease is, but I don't have any money to see a doctor."

The Bandung Basin is the historic center of Indonesia's textile industry, where 1,500 factories in the region dump 280 tons of toxic waste each day into the Citarum.

In the irrigation canals of Sukamaju, between the rice paddies, the water for crops that runs through the fields is a puzzling deep red verging on black.

"This is because of the dyes from the factories. The color changes every two hours (depending on dyes being washed out), and that has a direct impact on the quality of the rice," complained Deni Riswandani, as he dissected a young sprig.

"There are no more grains in the pods. Production has been reduced 50 percent from the normal harvest," said Riswandani, who is trying to bring farmers together to lobby for financial compensation.

Health effects go unaddressed

At the edge of the plantation stands a massive grey building equipped with several chimneys and surrounded by barbed wire. On the coast, a valve connected to the factory dumps toxic residue at regular intervals right by the rice paddies.

"Normally, factories can't dispose waste into the water without treating it," Riswandani said. "In theory, there are very heavy penalties for doing this, but the government pretends there are regular checks. But on the ground nothing changes."

According to Windya Wardhani, head of the West Java provincial environment bureau: "We practice intensive control, and I think that gradually the factories will comply with the rules. But perhaps not every day," she said.

"There are heavy metals in the Citarum's water and sediment, probably because of the factories, since you don't find heavy metals in rubbish."

She said the river contained mercury, lead, zinc and chrome, which have been linked to cancer, organ damage and even death, affecting babies and children more severely.

Mercury and lead can cause joint disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and diseases of the kidneys, circulatory system and nervous system, studies show.

Residents have sought compensation for their damaged rice crops, while the health effects of the river have gone unaddressed, with no data yet gathered to measure the extent of the problem.

The Indonesian Textiles Association asserts that the industry's contribution to the river's pollution is no more than 15 to 25 percent.

"It comes mostly from domestic waste and plastic. It is unfair to assume it's all us. It's easy to count the number of factories, but who's counting the number of people who live along the river and throw their waste in the water?" said Kevin Hartanto, head of the Bandung chapter of the textile association.

Cleaning up the Citarum river and its 22 streams has been classified a national priority by the Indonesian government, which in 2010 launched a huge 15-year project to rehabilitate the river.

Largely financed by the private sector, this "road map" involves dozens of NGOs, seven ministries and 12 local governments, amounting to a total of $3.5 billion. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will contribute $500 million.

According to Thomas Panella, an ADB water resources specialist, progress has so far been minimal.

"At this point there has been little improvement because it's been a very short time [in which] to address the pollution issues," he said.

"We need to look at lessons of countries like France, the US and Korea that had incredibly polluted waterways in the first part of this century. You would think at that time it was not possible to address these things. You have to have a long-term vision."

Agence France-Presse

A Community Struggles With Jakarta's Water Quality
Jonathan Vit | September 02, 2012

Muhammad Taher's modest one-story home in North Jakarta's Cilincing subdistrict is a short walk from the colorful fishing boats moored along the shore of Jakarta Bay. Discarded mussel shells crunch under foot as he navigates the narrow maze-like alleys, turning sideways to squeeze between people standing outside food stalls and tin-roofed shacks.

The streets of Cilincing are still dirt, but the main road leading into the slum was just recently paved with rough concrete. It's one of the few signs of development in a place seemingly untouched by Jakarta's wealth.

Taher walks through a blizzard of buzzing black flies as he approaches the bay. The pungent smell of fish is overpowering. Dozens of people — men, women and children — are huddled around piles of black mussels. Cilincing is a community devoted to a single cause. Some 12,000 households work to harvest mussels, one of the few creatures that can survive the pollution of the Jakarta Bay.

Taher points out the children squatting around a pile of mussels, their thin fingers separating meat from shell.

"Children at these ages are not supposed to work," Taher says. "They are not supposed to worry about money. They should just play with their friends and not think about their family's income."

It wasn't always this way. Taher recalls growing up in Cilincing, back when the water was still clear and his father could cast a net and catch fish from the shore.

"It was not a life of the rich, but we never felt any hunger," he says.

Today, fishing boats bob on the dark waters of Jakarta Bay, a body of water so polluted by solid waste and industrial runoff that the bay is rapidly becoming eutrophic — or so depleted of oxygen that large fish can no longer survive, according to a Unesco report.

"The government really does not want to know about the problems in Jakarta Bay," Taher says.

Taher is one of the 7,000 traditional fishermen still living in the capital. His livelihood, like the 7.8 million impoverished fishermen living along the coasts of Indonesia, depends on the sea. Most of Indonesia's traditional fishermen live on $1 a day. Twenty-eight percent survive on even less, says Slamet Daroini, the manager of education and public fund-raising at the Fisheries Justice Coalition.

According to experts, decades of unchecked pollution, rampant overfishing and inadequate infrastructure have taken a serious toll on the nation's waters, hampering fishermen's ability to earn a living.

All thirteen rivers running into Jakarta Bay are heavily polluted by human waste, which, due to the capital's inadequate sewage treatment facilities, carries bacteria-laden feces directly into the bay, according to the Unesco report and environmental experts.

Industrial manufacturers also dump dangerous liquid waste into the rivers, Slamet says. A survey of Jakarta's waterways conducted by the Jakarta Office of Urban Environmental Study in 1997 found high levels of heavy metals — including lead, mercury and copper — and polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs) in Jakarta Bay. The contaminants, known to cause cancer and heavy metal poisoning, were found in sea life, birds and people at the time of the study.

Pollution of Jakarta's rivers and bay had steadily increased since 1983, the study found.

In the nearly three decades that followed, the situation has failed to improve, Slamet says. He details reports of companies secretly dumping industrial waste into the river during the rainy season, when the rivers, and many of Jakarta's low-lying neighborhoods on their banks, are overflowing with water.

The dumping is illegal, Slamet says, but enforcement is lax.

"The government cannot — or does not want to — penalize these companies," Slamet says.

The pollution has driven Cilincing's fishermen further out to sea, where they have to compete with anglers from Jakarta's Thousand Islands for an increasingly limited stock of fish.

On Panggang Island the impact of overfishing is so extreme its effects can be seen from a plane. Marine biologist Elizabeth M.P. Madin has observed the lack of algae "halos" around the island's coral reefs in satellite images.

In a study on the effects of overfishing of coral reefs, Madin explained that in reefs with a healthy population of predatory fish, smaller plant-eating fish only travel a short distance from the safety of the reef to feed. Their feeding habits produce halos around the reefs.

The halos are no longer visible on reefs near Panggang Island, according to the report published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

"What our results show is that fishing can have surprising, but very clear, effects throughout coral reef ecosystems," Madin said in a press release announcing the findings.

For Taher, traveling nearly 13 kilometers to cleaner waters no longer makes economic sense. He used to charter a larger boat with other local fishermen and head out for three days at a time. But the fuel, food and supplies needed for a fishing trip to the Thousand Islands could cost the men more than Rp 2.5 million ($261).

On good trips, Taher was able to take home Rp 150,000. During lean times, he brought home Rp 50,000. He now fishes on a "bagan" — a wooden platform suspended above open water — to save money.

"It is really difficult now to go fishing and there is no balance between the costs and the [money] made," he says. "That is why there are so many who stopped being traditional fishermen."

Only 25 percent of Cilincing's men still fish, Taher said. And most of the remaining fishermen are drowning in debts owed to the loan sharks who started to circle once the community fell on hard times.

They offer the men predatory loans at 25 to 30 percent interest rates, Taher says. It's a dangerous system, but one that many fishermen turn to when they cannot afford to feed their families, he explained.

"We sometimes can only pay the interest," Taher says. "Many of the traditional fishermen who once had houses lost them."

Taher sees hope in the community's mussel harvest. He walks through the bustling community, proudly explaining how the shellfish have allowed his neighbors to survive.

But the mussels, like much of the sea life found in Jakarta Bay, have been contaminated by heavy metals. The local government stopped issuing permits to farm mussels from Jakarta Bay last year, explaining that the filter feeders absorb the toxic chemicals found in the bay.

But the residents of Cilincing have few other options, Taher says.

A weathered 55-year-old man interrupts Taher's tour talk with a slight handshake. Mansyur used to be a fisherman, but he now harvests mussels. The changes, he said, are heartbreaking.

"I feel very sad seeing these bad changes," Mansyur says. "I cry inside my heart because all of the changes are so extreme and none of them bring any good."

Mansyur has lived through the regimes of Sukarno and Suharto, the economic collapse and the ensuing recovery. But it is Indonesia's economic growth, and the population and manufacturing boom it fuels in Jakarta, that may prove to be too much.

If Jakarta, and the rest of the nation, fails to curb pollution and dumping, traditional fishermen may become a thing of the past, Slamet says.

"In my opinion, the fishermen do not have any future in Jakarta," he says.

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