P.C. Naommy and Theresia Sufa, Jakarta/Bogor
Environmentalists fear further devastating consequences of lax waste management on marine and coastal areas nationwide, in the wake of the deaths of thousands of fish in Jakarta Bay earlier this year.
""The technology is there, but it isn't applied. Many industries would simply choose to take the easy way by dumping their waste into the sea to save money,"" said Ario Damar, a researcher from the Bogor Institute of Agricultural (IPB) on the sidelines of a environmental workshop at the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) on Monday.
Researchers consider the dead fish phenomenon of last May a warning from nature and not just ""a natural occurrence"", as previously claimed by Governor Sutiyoso.
Research results from the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) blamed the red-tide phenomenon -- an increase in the population of algae that result in oxygen depletion -- for the deaths of fish and clams.
According to researchers from the IPB, the increase of the algae could be caused by the increase of phosphates and nitrogen -- nutrients needed by the algae -- which are suspected to be coming from household waste, such as detergent and feces.
Another researcher from the IndoRepro-Indonesia Recycling and Sanitation Program, M. Rudi Wahyono, said that the extreme algae proliferation could also be caused by industrial toxic waste.
""The city administration seems to be defensive when it come to the pollution caused by industries. They should take strong measures against those companies,"" said Rudi.
Ario from the IPB added that the heavy metals could act as a time bomb, such as events prior to the tragedy in Minamata, Japan. ""The company started to dump methyl mercury in the sea in 1946, but the disease, which was caused by mercury toxicosis, started to flare up about 10 years after,"" he said.
Data from the World Bank in 2003 had put Indonesia, among other countries in Asia, as the country with the poorest waste management and sanitation system.
According to the World Bank, the economic loss due to damage to the ecosystem has reached US$4.6 billion per year, or 2 percent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Separately, Bogor LIPI expert Ahmad Jauhar Arief, revealed on Monday that the uncontrolled dumping of industrial waste from textile factories in South Bandung had killed thousands of fish in Saguling dam.
""Moreover, excessive fish farming in the area has also polluted the water,"" he said.
The dam is the source of a hydro-powered electricity plant that powers part of Java island and Bali.
Table of Heavy Metals found in Ancol and Dadap areas in Jakarta Bay in mg/l
Heavy Metal Ancol Dadap Standard level
Lead(Pb) 0.120 0.093 0.008 Cadmium(Cd) 0.068 0.054 0.001 Copper(Co) 0.068 0.059 0.008 Mercury(Hg) 0.005 0.006 0.001
Source : The Center for Marine and Coastal Natural Resources Study at IPB