Indonesia: ‘World’s most polluted’ river
September 12th 2012
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.
Read the full article: Jakarta Globe
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