Although authorities have made a string of efforts to control water pollution in river basins, a tough battle remains ahead. Environmental damage and pollution still occur in major rivers and river basin areas (DAS) across Indonesia, such as the Citarum River in West Java, despite various initiatives launched to clear them of waste, sediments and other pollutants, according to the Environment and Forestry Ministry.
Ministry data from last year reveals that only 2.01 percent of rivers in Indonesia have water that meets quality standards for human consumption, while 73.24 percent are heavily polluted. The ministry further says that 108 DAS are in a critical condition.
Under the 2015-2019 National Mid-Term Development Plan (RPJMN), the government aims to revitalize 15 DAS across the country so they can meet water quality standards by 2019.With only one year left, the Environment and Forestry Ministry is boosting efforts to control river pollution by, among others things, issuing ministerial decrees on river loading capacity.
The ministry’s water pollution control director general, Sri Purwati Budi Susanti, said her office had issued decrees on the pollution load of river basin areas along Ciliwung, Cisadane and Citarum Rivers. A decrease for 12 other rivers will be made soon.
“We are set to issue four more decrees this year; they will become the basis of all policies or permits related to the handling of water pollution in DAS,” Sri said.
The decree details the capacity of a river to assimilate pollutants, the amount of pollutants that should be reduced and the river’s pollution level.
“In Citarum River, for example, from the decree, we can see that there is still a large gap between the capacity of a river to assimilate pollutants and the current amount of pollutants in the river. The gap is quite large, up to 300,000 tons,” Sri said.
Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) executive director Henri Subagiyo said the large gap reflected a serious challenge the country was facing in saving its polluted rivers.
“The government needs to determine the pollution load capacity of all rivers in Indonesia. This is important because it is one of the requirements for a river waste disposal permit,” said Henri.
To revitalize Indonesia’s rivers, the ICEL had advised the government to implement a moratorium on waste disposal.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry’s law enforcement director general, Rasio Ridho Sani, said there was a lack of field supervisors responsible for monitoring pollution levels.
“We only have around 80 supervisors right now, but in reality, we must have around 5,000 supervisors across Indonesia. Our ministry cannot do it alone. There must be supervisors prepared by local administrations to oversee their environment,” Rasio said, adding that raising sanctions for polluters was the key to solving the problem of polluted rivers.
Separately, the ministry’s dangerous toxic material and waste management director general, Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, said that although Law No. 18/2008 on waste management was issued 10 years ago and its articles clearly stipulated that those who polluted the environment were subject to criminal sanctions, no one had ever been punished for environmental crimes.
Several communities have taken the initiative to sue parties that were responsible for polluting their water supply.
In December, three East Java residents — Riska Darmawanti, Mega Mayang Kencana and Daru Setyorini — filed a lawsuit against the East Java administration for alleged negligence in managing disposable diaper waste dumped along Brantas River.
An Ecological Observation and Wetland Conservation (Ecoton) research released in August reveals that disposable diapers make up 80 percent of the waste in Brantas River. Ecoton cleaned up seven locations along the river and collected an average of 1.2 tons of disposable diapers in each location.