Jakarta. The Indonesian government is set to embark on a massive collaborative project to normalize West Java's Citarum River, considered the world's dirtiest, following a direct instruction from President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.
The river, which originates near Bandung and flows into the sea just east of Jakarta, is the third-longest on Java Island. It is severely polluted, mostly with industrial waste from factories upstream, 68 percent of which are textile producers, according to Greenpeace.
According to the Ministry of Industry, there are 440 registered textile producers situated along the river, with only 380 of them equipped with wastewater treatment plants, as required by law.
Two nonprofit organizations, the New-York-based Blacksmith Institute and Switzerland-based Green Cross, listed the river as the world's dirtiest in 2013 after a study showed that textile producers dump an estimated 280 tons of toxic waste into the river every day.
However, despite several action plans by the government, none has yielded positive results so far.
"A 2015 study by the National Development Planning Agency [Bappenas]] and the Asian Development Bank assessed that Rp 200 trillion [$14 billion] would be required to clean up the Citarum River in a 20-year plan, but we think it is too expensive and we can do it cheaper, with assistance from our police and military," Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters after a meeting with top government officials at his office in Jakarta on Thursday (11/01).
The Citarum River has never been a top priority for the government, at least until December last year, when President Jokowi issued an instruction that all stakeholders should collaborate to resolve the matter.
"This is the first time a coordinated meeting was held, involving ministries and other government stakeholders, to normalize the Citarum," West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan said during the same occasion.
Minister Luhut said the governor informed him that fishermen would soon no longer be allowed to keep fish in cages along the river.
"The Citarum is severely polluted. We do not recommend that people eat fish from the river," Luhut said.
Bappenas head Bambang Brodjonegoro meanwhile said the old Citarum River revitalization roadmap will be reviewed and adjusted to kick off a new action plan.
"In 2011, the government actually launched the first part of the plan, but it was then halted. Perhaps because there was no agency to take charge and steer the program," Bambang said.
The government expects the new plan to be implemented by next month.