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The Big Read « Java « The Rise and Fall of the Ciliwung: Jakarta's Most Polluted River

Local day-trippers pose for a snapshot near the source of the Ciliwung river at Wisata Curug Panjang near Puncak, West Java

Local day-trippers pose for a snapshot near the source of the Ciliwung river at Wisata Curug Panjang near Puncak, West Java.

More serious than an occasional dip is the deforestation of the surrounding hills. In order to escape the worsening air pollution and heat of the capital, the wealthy of Jakarta use Puncak as a sprawling weekend getaway.

Forests are cut down to make way for hotels, golf courses and second homes. During heavy rainfall the unchecked water pours into the Ciliwung causing devastating flooding in the capital from where the tourists have flocked.

The Ciliwung, at 117 kilometres, is Jakarta's longest and most polluted river.

© 2017 Ubud High.

Women and children bathe in the polluted Ciliwung river as it passes its first major point of contact with humans on the outskirts of Ciawi, near Bogor

Women and children bathe in the Ciliwung river as it passes its first major point of contact with humans on the outskirts of Ciawi, near Bogor.

Pesticides have already entered the watercourse further upstream as the river flows through commercial plantations and agricultural land.

© 2017 Ubud High.

Locals pass the afternoon fishing in an empang, or man-made pond, next to the Ciliwung in Bogor

Locals pass the afternoon fishing in an empang, or man-made pond, next to the Ciliwung in Bogor.

"There aren't enough fish in the river anymore," says one, "and after the rains come a lot are either sick or dead before they get here. So we built our own fish pond and stock it so we're guaranteed to at least catch something."

In Bogor, more than 11 percent of the riverbank's 960 hectares has been converted into residential areas resulting in an increase of household and faecal waste that flows through the sprawling satellite city of Depok and into Jakarta, Indonesia's seat of power.

© 2017 Ubud High.

The Ciliwung, as it passes the slum dwellings of Manggarai in South Jakarta

The Ciliwung, as it passes the slum dwellings of Manggarai in South Jakarta.

Living conditions are squalid in the slums, with toxic water regularly flooding residents' households during the monsoon months.

Despite there being limited, haphazard or non-existent refuse collection in these poorer riverbank areas, the city's authorities continue to blame much of the flooding in Jakarta on the inhabitants of illegal riverside slums who dump their household waste into the city's 13 watercourses.

According to government data, there are about 50,000 people officially living in slums in Jakarta with another 50,000 illegal squatters. However, according to a survey conducted by Mercy Corps, Jakarta has some 1,700 hectares of slum areas occupied by no less than 555,000 people.

© 2017 Ubud High.

A group of children pass the day outside a slum on the banks of the Ciliwung river in Manggarai, Jakarta, Indonesia

A group of children pass the day outside their slum home on the banks of the Ciliwung river in Manggarai.

The high degree of faecal contamination in the Ciliwung is a major cause of gastro-intestinal infections in the city where diarrhoea accounts for 20 percent of infant deaths.

The word Betawi - used with great pride, and seen written on the side of the shanty house - refers to a multi-generational, born-and-bred inhabitant of Jakarta.

The extended family that stays illegally in this three-room house have lived here for more than 50 years.

© 2017 Ubud High.

A prostitute in a makeshift brothel under a bridge that spans the Ciliwung in Manggarai, South Jakarta

A prostitute has a moment to herself in a makeshift brothel under a bridge that spans the Ciliwung river in Manggarai, South Jakarta.

Like many of Jakarta's poor that line the riverbank, Aminah, 42, and her customers use the highly contaminated riverwater to bathe with.

© 2017 Ubud High.

Ibu Rusmi, a Maduran immigrant, holds her twin daughters in a slum dwelling on the banks of the Ciliwung river in Jakarta, Indonesia

Ibu Rusmi, 28, an immigrant from Madura, holds her twin daughters in a slum dwelling on the banks of the Ciliwung in Senen, Central Jakarta.

"The air's terrible here, and the river stinks. We get massacred by the mosquitoes in the dry season."

"The best thing about the river is that we can throw our rubbish in it. When it rains it's even better, because we can throw in things like used nappies and they get washed away quicker instead of hanging about for ages."

"We don't throw the nappies into the rubbish dumps because they burn the rubbish there. If the nappies get burned, we believe that something bad will happen to the baby who was wearing them."

© 2017 Ubud High.

A young, female Maduran slum dweller on the banks of the Ciliwung river in Senen, Central Jakarta, Indonesia

A young, female Maduran slum dweller on the banks of the Ciliwung river in Senen, Central Jakarta, Indonesia.

© 2017 Ubud High.

Children sit on mud and debris in the middle of the polluted Ciliwung river in Kalibata, Jakarta

Children sit on debris in the middle of the Ciliwung in Kalibata, Jakarta.

Tons of accumulated household rubbish and detritus from recently wrecked riverbank dwellings felled the suspension bride, creating a damn of mud that was responsible for severe skin diseases, leptospirosis, vomiting and diarrhoea, dysentry and 42 deaths.

© 2017 Ubud High.

A living-room suite soaked by contaminted floodwater is left to dry outside a house on the banks of the Ciliwung river in Jakarta, Indonesia

A living-room suite soaked by contaminted floodwater is left to dry outside a house on the banks of the Ciliwung in Kalibata, Jakarta, Indonesia.

© 2017 Ubud High.

A clean-up volunteer pauses for a smoke as contaminated floodwaters refuse to drain away in Kalibata, Jakarta, Indonesia

A clean-up volunteer pauses for a smoke as week-old floodwaters refuse to drain away in Kalibata, Jakarta, Indonesia.

The mud tested positive for unusually high levels of sodium, manganese, iron, mercury, ammonia, pesticides, lead, cadmium, faeces and phenol.

© 2017 Ubud High.

Refuse workers at the mouth of the Ciliwung river in North Jakarta unload four tons of contaminated waste

Refuse workers at the mouth of the Ciliwung river in Anke harbour, North Jakarta, unload four tons of waste from a shallow-draft boat into a truck bound for interior landfill.

"They just don't get it," says one worker.

"They used to throw their rubbish in the rivers before we started here. When they heard about the government clean-up in the bay they just threw in more."

He points to a tangle of rubbish on the deck.

"We put up with a lot of typhus here... The dust is terrible for our lungs. It's dead, this place."

Jakarta is currently sinking by up to 10 centimetres a year.

© 2017 Ubud High.


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