Making Indonesian Rivers Great Again – by Muhammad Beni Saputra (The Diplomat – October 31, 2017)

Indonesia’s rivers are heavily polluted, but they can still be saved.

I once lingered at Pont d’Iena Bridge staring at the River Seine, which flows beautifully at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in the city of Paris. The clean surface of the iconic river, as seen from the bridge, had successfully entranced me and my memory flew southeast to my peaceful village near the Bukit Tiga Puluh National Park in Jambi, Indonesia. I remembered my childhood friend, the Batanghari River.

Sadly, the Batanghari is no longer as clean and clear as it was 18 years ago when I was a child. Yes, the longest river in Sumatra is now muddy, dirty, and polluted, joining hundreds of other rivers throughout Indonesia that have long contained harmful chemicals.

Research by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry showed that 75 percent of rivers in the country are seriously polluted, 52 of which are categorized as heavily polluted, and 118 watersheds out of 450 are critically polluted.

These bitter facts are certainly not good news for the people in the archipelagic country, especially those who live in the countryside like my fellow villagers. For generations, they have harnessed river water for multiple purposes such as bathing, cooking, fishing, and even drinking. There are several main reason why numerous rivers in Indonesia are badly damaged.

First, rivers often serve as the endpoint for household and industrial wastes. Even now, the majority of urban and rural settlements in Indonesia do not have proper waste management to prevent household pollutants from sweeping down to lower ground, including rivers. As a result, the Ciliwung River in Jakarta, Singaraja River in Bali, and Brantas River in East Java for example, have been severely contaminated with hazardous substances originating from residential houses.

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