Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Most Polluted River in the World, Citarum River, Indonesia

The Citarum has been called the world's most polluted river. Around 5 million people live in the river's basin, and most of them rely on its flow for their water supply. Heavy pollution of river water by household and industrial waste in the Indonesian province of West Java is threatening the health of at least five million people living on the riverbanks, say government officials and water experts.

Poor sanitation and hygiene cause 50,000 deaths annually in Indonesia, with untreated sewage resulting in over six million tons of human waste being released into inland water bodies, according to an ongoing study by the World Bank.

Citarum River-Ironic between History and Environmental Tragedy

Citarum River flows from headwaters in the South of Bandung (Windu) towards the North and its canal is in Kerawang (West Java). With 225 kilometres in length, makes this river the longest river in West Java. The Citarum River comes from two words, namely Ci and Tarum. In the Sundanese language (one of the local languages in Indonesia), the word “Ci” or “Cai” means water and “Tarum” which means plants with purple colour. In the 5th century, from a small village built on the side of the river by Jayasinghawarman, another area became crowded and later became the basis of a large Kingdom in Indonesia, namely the Kingdom of Tarumanegara, the oldest Hindu Kingdom in West Java.

The river becomes very important as a source of water for 25 million people who are spread across nine counties and three cities in West Java; they are Bandung Regency, Karawang, Purwakarta Regency, Cianjur, Bandung, Cimahi and Bekasi. As well as 15 million people who live along the riverbanks. The huge potency of it is due to the vast watershed that reaches 6.614 kilometres square. With the River, about 420 thousand hectares of rice field in West Java, especially in the coastal areas of the North, can be flowed by water through irrigation networks and reservoirs. The Citarum River flows in several reservoirs like Saguling, Jatiluhur and Cirata Reservoirs. The River is also a source of water power plant that produces (HYDROELECTRIC POWER) electrical power to Java and Bali of 1,400 Megawatts.

Behind the famous name of Citarum River, the River has a complex problem that is very embarrassing. Till this day, the River is still in a very poor condition. According to the head of the House of Commons of the Citarum River, a river that had flourished in the 1970s now belongs to the tainted heavily. It even had a chance to be crowned the world’s most polluted rivers! The condition is caused by the large number of concern industrial waste as well as the household directly dumped into the river without being processed first. Every day people dispose of 400 tonnes of waste of livestock into the River. Every day, as many as 25 thousand cubic of household waste accommodated there and 280 tonnes of industrial waste flowed towards the Citarum River. Those things are causing pollution and sedimentation in the Citarum River. The sad thing is there are 46 thousand hectares of critical land in the upper course of Citarum River. It also results in increased sedimentation of the River. Aquacultures farming that do not comply with the rules of the conservation and control of land in the area of the upper function became one of the causes of the emergence of these critical lands.

Additionally, as written by the daily Trouw, the river is now coming to be used as a toilet and garbage dumps. Shoes, baby diapers and plastic bottles are floating in the water. Fishermen that used to find fish, is now collecting garbage. One kilogram of plastic generate nearly 10 euro cent. On the other hand, deforestation happened to be another problem. It is causing erosion so the river becomes more easily to dry and trash cannot flow. Especially in the dry season river issued bitter smell. Sometimes it can make people around to fall unconscious.

To renovate the river, Asian Development Bank (ADB) is willing to give a loan of 500 million US Dollars to the Government of Indonesia. Quote from comment of Chris Morris (ADB): “Rivers in the United Kingdom had issued Theems smell so bad like that, and then the Parliament is considering moving the Government buildings as well as the Big Ben from the Centre of London. Now the fish swim in the river again. The people in the sides of Citarum River also should be able to dream that someday their children can return to swim in the water safely”.

by Titisari Juwitaningtyas (INDONESIA)

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