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THE CITARUM RIVER BASIN

WAYS TO PROTECT THE BASIN USING SUSTAINABLE


TECHNOLOGY, PAIGHTON VANZANT 2016

For the past couple of decades, the Citarum River Basin, located in West Java, Indonesia, has
been popularly known as one of the most polluted river basins in the world. The people who live along
the basin in West Java, Indonesia regularly use the water to drink, clean, and irrigate their farms. Not only
does this affect the health of the millions of people and animals who use this water, but it also makes it
difficult for fish and animals to live within the area while staying healthy and avoiding harmful
chemicals, such as pesticides. Within this paper, I will begin to investigate the primary causes and the
multiple impediments that prevent this area, people, and environment from thriving to their full potential,
while also researching how education, new technology developments, and recycling can be very vital
solutions.
First and foremost, all the sources that were researched, emphasize how important this river is to
both the community and the sustainability of the land and wildlife surrounding it. The Citarum River is
the largest and longest river in West Java. The river and its tributaries are a vitally important water supply
for both the city of Bandung and the Jakarta region, home to over 25 million people, where they largely
depend on the river for everyday situations such as drinking, bathing, and cleaningas they have no
other water source (Asian Development Bank, 2014). The river also delivers 20 percent of Indonesias
gross domestic product and provides 80 percent of surface water to carry through the West Tarum Canal
to the Jakartas water supply authority (Fulazzaky, 2010). Not only is this river vitally important for
agriculture purposes, but it is depended on by millions of people every day. The toxic waste from the
pollution kills the rivers aquatic life, fosters disease, clogs hydroelectric turbines and causes regularly
flooding in the surrounding cities (Asian Development Bank, 2014); this problem affects the livelihood
and health of everyone and everything around it. Many people from the Bandung region often release
pollutant loads into the upstream areas of the river without having it treated first, which is a major
cause of the water degradation within this area (Fulazzaky, 2010). Moreover, the river irrigates farms
that supply 5 percent of Indonesias rice (Natahadibrata, 2013). There may be people within these cities
who claim that they are unaffected by the rivers pollution, but in fact the toxic water from the river is

used on a regular basis to irrigate the agricultural lands. The fact that this basin is so essential to the wellbeing of the ecosystem and community emphasizes the need for technology to help make the water clean
and pollution free (Natahadibrata, 2013). Not only do these two articles stress the importance and
necessity of cleaning up the river, but also focus on preventing future pollution.
Clearly, the Citarum River Basin will never be 100 percent clean, however; the pollution can be
greatly reduced and prevented in future situations, but only if certain measures take place. The primary
causes of the river basins pollution stem from the fact that small companies are not blamed for the
pollution, nor is the pollution regularly regulatedeven when it is, it isnt done sufficiently. Additionally,
almost 70 percent of the water pollution comes from domestic waste, while Textile factories in Bandung
and Cimahi were found to be the major toxic waste contributors to the basin (Natahadibrata, 2013). Not
only is the pollution coming from companies surrounding the river and disposing of their waste into the
basin, but majority of the pollution comes from the residents themselves. The island of Kalimantan, which
is also part of the Citarum River Basin, further reports that much of the pollution there had come from
the vast small-scale gold mining in the area that utilized mercury in the gold extraction process
(Natahadibrata, 2013). This increases the dangerous toxins that are present in the river because the goldmining workers, along with the companies, are being unregulated while they dispose of their waste. The
reason that the basin has become so intensely polluted is due to these factors, which without proper
regulations and standards, resulted in one of the most polluted rivers in the world. The government,
instead of banning all hazardous substances, regulates the pollution instead, yet in the recent
Greenpeace investigation there are reports of over 100,000 toxic materials that were being used without
any evaluation (Natahadibrata, 2013). Regarding water quality, increasing urbanization in the region,
combined effects of untreated domestic sewage, solid waste disposal and industrial wastewater have
significantly increased pollution in the Citarum river system (Hermawan, P. and Kijima, K. 2009). Both
sources report that the governments role in controlling the pollution from companies is very weak and
unenforced. To solve the Citarum River Basins pollution problem, there must be a solution to the lack of

authority, however; what most people dont know is that the stakeholders cannot themselves significantly
reduce the pollution by themselves.
The effect that the river basins pollution has on the environment and people has long-lasting
consequences. There was an article published in 2013 that reported that around 200 million people in the
world had been exposed to toxic pollution, which could lead to various health risks, including cancer
(Natahadibrata, 2013). Developing countries are unaware of the effects that the toxins can do to
themselves and their children. The Journal of Pregnancy and Health, for instance, reported that their
program had investigated the organophosphorus (OP) pesticide exposure of 235 elementary school
children living in three agricultural villages in the Citarum watershed, Bandung, Indonesia, through
urinary and blood biomonitoring (Sekiyama #1, et al., 2015) and a questionnaire-based survey followed
asking about sociodemographic indicators, food consumption, and behavioral patterns of the students.
The results displayed that the detection rate of DAP [dialkylphosphate] was highest in the village
practicing pisciculture, where the use of pesticides was expected to be the lowest among the three
villages (Sekiyama #1, et al., 2015). The reason that this research stands out is because the effect of
pesticides on peoples health is linked to many of the 220,000 deaths per year in developing countries
(Sekiyama #1, et al., 2015). The children in the Citarum river basin are extremely susceptible to pesticides
because they have a greater intake on body-weight basis, relative skin surface, and have a habit of handto-mouth activities (Sekiyama #1, et al., 2015). The Organophosphorus pesticides are a concern to
peoples health in this region due to its effects on the nervous system and the dangers the pesticides in the
water cause to a pregnant woman (Sekiyama #1, et al., 2015). As previously reported, not only do the
pesticides cause a great health concern to the community, but also cause a long-term effect on the safety
and future health of the people and wildlife in the region.
The main wildlife that is impacted in within the basin is fish, specifically
Catfish (Clarias sp.). A study was done to determine how much organochlorine
pesticides residue was in fish samples that were collected from the local fish

cultivation in the upper are of the Citarum watershed. The experiment was done
through a liquid-liquid extraction method that was developed by the National
Pesticide Commission of Indonesia (Rahmawati #1, et al., 2013). The results proved
that the catfish that the locals were mostly fishing had dangerously high levels of
pesticides that are then sold to residents of the area, whom intake the chemicals.
The catfish that were sampled in the upper area of the river had a much higher
organochlorine pesticide percentage than those in other areas, however; that does
not indicate that the catfish in other areas of the river are free of pesticides and
safe for consumption. This study also reported that the average concentration of the
organochlorine pesticides in 2013 is much higher compared to the average
concentration in fish than in 2010. Not only that, but organochlorine pesticides were
prohibited for agricultural purposes, studies indicate that the pesticides are still
used by farmers in the Citarum watershed (Rahmawati #1, et al., 2013). Due to the
study, its clear that the wildlife within this region is negatively affected by the
illegal pesticides used for the crops. Without a solution to this pollution, the people,
wildlife, and water quality will continue to decline in health and sustainability.
One possible solution was proposed in 2008 that encouraged management
improvement and changes to those who were polluting the river without proper
treatment. Through a $500 million loan from the Asian Development Bank,
Indonesia was able to implement the Integrated Citarum Water Resource
Management Investment Program. The most common definition of this possible
solution is to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable
manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems (Cavelle,
2013). This solution acts as a participatory, place-based, integrative management
strategy (Cavelle, 2013). To solve the uncoordinated and unintegrated problem that

has led to such a polluted area, this solution works on cleaning up both upper and
lower basins together, rather than what has been done in the pastwhere
management activities focus on only one region and neglect the negative affects it
could have on other regions. Through this, water managers will be able to tackle
water quality and water supply together, rather than two independent tasks.
Through water privatization and the urged localized management of the program,
the economy and water quality should improve (Cavelle, 2013). The programs goals
are efficiency, equity, and environmental sustainabilitywhich is reported that all
three can be done concurrently. The program tries to design a participatory
planning and implementation process, based on sound science, that brings
stakeholders together to determine how to meet societys long-term needs for
water and coastal resources while maintaining essential ecological services and
economic benefits (Cavelle, 2013). With the initiation of this program in 2008 and
the coordination of the management and people of the city, the pollution within the
river basin can be greatly reduced and safe to do everyday activities in.
The program, however; like many other programs, the implementation is
problematicespecially when accounting for the complex and localized set of
processes associated with managing such a politically and ecologically diverse river
basin (Cavelle, 2013). The program would be able to reduce pollution more
effectively if the people within the Integrated Water Resources Management
program would improve coordination with the agencies and consult with residents of
the area. The lack of coordination makes this project much more complicated and
prolonged. Throughout the next fifteen years, it is expected that they will hit at least
six more river basins in Indonesia (Cavelle, 2013). Although the program has made

progress in minimizing water pollution and resident education, improvement is


never frowned upon.
As beneficial as the Integrated Water Resources Program can be on its own, it
isnt entirely complete without being combined with other solutions. The problem is,
is that the program often lacks the clarity and substance necessary to account for
the socio-political dimensions of water management in a particular location
(Cavelle, 2013). In the past, Indonesia has had many political, economical, and
socio-political problems in dealing with the water quality and ways to clean up the
basin. With this program being initiated, it may cause problems if one is not
educated on the past. Additionally, the spatial and temporal variability of human
induced hydrological changes in a river basin could affect the quality and quantity
of water within the basin. The goal of Integrated Water Resources Program is to
cope with issues of water to maximize the economic and social welfare, but it may
harm the sustainability of vital ecosystems (Fulazzaky, 2014). Although this program
is plausible to be the most instrumental to the river basins pollution problem, it
does raise some questions that need to be answered. With the guidance of
stakeholders, this problem can be somewhat prevented. The stakeholders have
experience in the field of water quality degradation within the basin and can guide
the program to show them what measures need to be taken place to protect the
sustainability of the river (Van Ginkel, 2015).
Another possible solution for saving the Citarum river basin is education.
Much of the domestic waste that is released into the river is mainly because people
dont have alternative places to put it and because they are unaware of the affects
it has on their health and environment. Asian Development Bank has paired with
local government and the Ministry of Health to support a community initiative that

educates people about where to dump their trash while also giving them an
incentive to recycle: money for trash. Karawang village head reported that Before
the recycling started, people had no place to dump, so they used the river. That has
all changed. People are now aware of the economic and environmental value of
recycling trash (Asian Development Bank, 2014). Due to the incentives and
education, it has been able to turn lives around; one of the recyclers, Entus
Sutsisna, commented that now he earns a good income from recycling not only [his
own] rubbish but the huge amount that can be salvaged daily from the rivers
around here. [He has] enough money from it to ensure the family eats better and
[his] two children can now attend school (Asian Development Bank, 2014). People
are now more conscientious of their disposal of trash, thus decreasing the amount
of pollution that is release into the river basin. Education, combined with Integrated
Water Resources Management, will be able to further increase the water quality of
the Citarum river basin and make it sustainable for years to come.
The Citarum river basin has in the past been reported as one of the most
polluted rivers in the world, however; with Integrated Water Resources
Management, recycling programs, and education, this problem can be resolved.
Through improved communication and coordination between the agencies and
programs, as well as additional research to determine better ways to protect both
the land and peoples safety, then the cleanup process will proceed more efficiently
and the causes will be prevented from occurring in the future. The sustainability of
the water and the wildlife will be protected through these combined solutions, which
will allow everyone and everything to thrive to its full potential.

References
Asian Development Bank. Cleaning Up Indonesias Citarum River Basin. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
https://www.adb.org/features/cleaning-indonesias-citarum-basin

Natahadibrata, Nadya. Citarum, Kalimantan worlds most polluted. Retrieved September 22,
2016. http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/11/06/citarum-kalimantan-world-s-mostpolluted.html
Sekiyama M, Shimmura T, Nakazaki M, Akbar IB, and Gunawan B. 2015. Organophosphorus
Pesticide Exposure of School Children in Agricultural Villages in Indonesia. Journal of
Pregnancy and Child Health. 2:1-6. (http://www.omicsgroup.org/journals/organophosphoruspesticide-exposure-of-school-children-in-agricultural-villages-in-indonesia-2376-127X1000153.php?aid=49735)
Rahmawati, S. Margana, G. Yoneda, M. and Oginawati, K. 2013. Organochlorine Pesticide
Residue in Catfish (Clarias sp.) Collected from Local Fish Cultivation at Citarum Watershed,
West Java Province, Indonesia, Procedia Environmental Sciences. 17:3-10.
(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878029613000078)
Cavelle, J. 2013. A Political Ecology of the Citarum River Basin: Exploring Integrated Water
Resources Management in West Java, Indonesia. Berkeley Undergraduate Journal. 26: 86-90.
(https://escholarship.org/uc/item/7zh5n9f6#)
Hermawan, P. and Kijima, K. 2009. Conflict analysis of Citarum River Basin pollution in
Indonesia: A drama-theoretic model. Journal of Systems Science and Systems Engineering.
18:16-37.
Fulazzaky, M. A. 2014. Challenges of Integrated Water Resources Management in Indonesia.
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Fulazzaky, M.A. Water quality evaluation system to assess the status and the suitability of the
Citarum river water to different uses. Environmental Monitoring Assessment. 2010. 168:
669-684.
Van Ginkel, C. H. 2015. Water quality monitoring in the Upper Citarum River Basin:
rethinking the role of stakeholders. Pp 1-15 in Environmental Technology and Management
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