Citarum: Possibly the world’s most polluted river

citarum_pollutionJammed with endless amounts of trash, hazardous waste, and human excrement, lays the world’s most polluted river in West Java, Indonesia, known as the Citarum.

The river unfortunately makes up 80 per cent of the surface water supply among the 5 million people who use it for cooking, washing clothes and drinking.The pollution has hit tradesmen, impacting the quality of rice paddies and forcing farmers into selling them for half their normal price. Fishermen have been pressured to quit their work, and in turn, filter through the endless amounts of trash, hoping to discover discarded items of value.

“Because of the garbage and wastes in the river, my daily income dropped. I hope the government gives attention to the polluted river as it affects our income.” said Ujan Sujana, a local fisherman.

Environmental activist and awareness group Forum on Environment and Social (FES) has urged the Indonesian government to rehabilitate the river’s upper course. The group stresses that the massive pollution will result in a domino effect further downstream.

“The problem first started in the 1980s” before it later worsened due to the operation of factories, said Saung Dwi, a member of the environmentalist group.

The health of the river’s water and its owners has been affected by the rapid industrialisation surrounding the river bank. More than 600 factories all line adjacent on the 321-kilometer (200 mile) stream, 90 per cent of them lacking sufficient water waste treatments, leaking toxicities and pollutants that seep into the waterway.

Because West Java lacks a trash pickup service and proper sewage system infrastructure, all the houses, factories and other buildings have been dumping both litter and feces into the river bank, an act of desperation due to the lack of any other means of disposal placement. In the Majalaya district, 700 people have had skin diseases and 300 have suffered from diarrhea.

In November of 2011, prospects of revitalization of the river started, with an expected cost of Rp 35 trillion ($4 billion) over the course of 15 years. The revitalisation will start from Mount Wayang through three cities and eight regencies of 180 kilometers. The target, which currently hasn’t been updated, plans to pick up 10.5 million cubic meters of sedimentation.

EarthProtect.com has estimated that full revitalisation of the river may take as long as 25 years.