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Jakarta Post

Lack of coordination hampers Citarum rehabilitation

  • Arya Dipa and Kharishar Kahfi

    The Jakarta Post

Bandung and Jakarta   /   Tue, January 29, 2019   /   05:38 pm
Lack of coordination hampers Citarum rehabilitation Residents wade across an inundated road in Dayeuhkolot, Bandung regency, West Java on Jan. 14. Heavy rain caused the Citarum River to overflow and flood several areas with water rising to between 60 and 150 centimeters high. (Antara/Raisan Al Farisi)

In January last year, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the key to settle all the environmental problems of the Citarum River -- the longest river in West Java -- was integration of efforts by ministries, institutions and all government branches both at the central and local levels.

The 270-kilometer river is being heavily polluted, mostly by household garbage and waste from textile factories, despite its importance for the lives of at least 27 million people in West Java and Jakarta.

“If they can integrate, I predict the rehabilitation of the river can finish well within seven years,” Jokowi said at that time.

One month later, he officially established an extensive rehabilitation campaign nicknamed Citarum Harum involving, among others, the central government, local administrations, the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the police.

The scheduled deadline, however, may be pushed back because of a lack of cooperation among the stakeholders.

West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil was the first to admit that the issue existed.

“There is no centralized coordination [for the project],” he said during a recent one-year evaluation of the Citarum Harum rehabilitation program.

His concern was echoed by Col. Yusef Sudrajat, a local military officer assigned to the project who is responsible for the work in one of Citarum’s 23 zones. He claimed to have never received orders from his superiors about the Citarum program.

“There has been only one coordination meeting with the task force commander since I was assigned to this project 10 months ago,” Yusef said.

The commander of the Siliwangi Military Command overseeing West Java and Banten, Maj. Gen. Trie Soewandono, said the TNI had assigned more than 3,000 personnel to contribute to the Citarum program.

The lack of communication, Yusef said, has affected the work in the field and left participants with less access to funding.

Yusef said that Citarum's budgetary allocation did not include money for fuel for heavy equipment that would be used by the military across Citarum’s 23 zones to dredge sediment and debris from the river.

“The dredging is important to prevent heavy flooding in several regions in Bandung, including Baleendah,” he said, adding that the dredging was actually a task for regional administrations rather than for military personnel.

In order to solve the problem, Ridwan said he would hold a coordination meeting between related stakeholders next month in Bandung, during which they were expected to draft an action plan.

A public policy analyst and the executive director of Perkumpulan Prakarsa, Ah Maftuchan, said he suspected the poor coordination started at the central government level and between ministries and relevant institutions, adding that “sectoral ego” might be the root cause.

“This should be addressed by the relevant coordinating ministries. However, it seems they have yet to do their task well,” he said, adding that Jokowi might have to make an extra effort to monitor the Citarum program.

The Citarum River supplies about 80 percent of the raw water to Jakarta and its surrounding areas and irrigates rice farms in Karawang, West Java that produce 5 percent of Indonesia’s rice. It is also the source of power for three hydroelectric plants that can generate a total of 1,400 megawatts of electricity.

Yet, the Citarum's pollution has been an issue for years and textile factories in Bandung and Cimahi are considered to be the major toxic waste contributors.

West Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Agung Budi Maryoto said the force launched 58 investigations into people and companies suspected of polluting the Citarum last year.

However, he said the police would also need assistance from investigators of the Environment and Forestry Ministry to solve more cases and name more suspects. (ipa)