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Jakarta Post

Military borrows money for Citarum River clean-up

  • Arya Dipa

    The Jakarta Post

Bandung   /   Thu, February 21, 2019   /   01:34 pm
Military borrows money for Citarum River clean-up West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil (second right) along with Siliwangi Military commander Maj. Gen. Besar Harto Karyawan (center) and West Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Agung Budi Maryoto (second left) inspect the Citarum River in Bojongsoang, Bandung regency, West Java, on Sept. 26, 2018. (Antara/Novrian Arbi)

The fate of the government’s ambitious program to clean up the Citarum River -- the longest and dirtiest river in West Java -- has been mired by the late disbursement of funding, forcing the Indonesian Military (TNI), which is involved in the program, to ask for money from a foundation.

The military, which runs the Citarum Harum program, is planning to borrow Rp 14 billion (US$997,275) from the Citarum Harum Foundation, an NGO that has sought to build public support for the program.  

The Siliwangi Military Command’s territorial assistant to the command's chief of staff, Col. Hasto Respatyo, said the funding was expected to be sufficient to support the military’s operation until the end of this month. It will be used to finance the personnel's food, allowances and accommodation.

“We have been forced to borrow money from the Citarum Harum Foundation to fund our task force's operations along the river, because this year’s funding has not been received,” Hasto told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The Citarum is an important river that supports households and industries in West Java and Jakarta. The river is deemed important for the lives of at least 27 million people in the two provinces, as it is a major source for raw water supplies, irrigation and hydroelectric plants.

The poor state of the river, which is also a dump site for domestic and industrial waste, has prompted the government to implement restoration and clean-up programs along the river.  

Citarum Harum was initiated by the government and the military command last year when National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Lt. Gen. Doni Monardo was serving as Siliwangi commander.  

The foundation was launched in February 2018 alongside the program, which was to help the government in revitalizing the 270-kilometer-long river, which is polluted by household garbage and waste from textile factories.

The foundation has collected money from residents and businesspeople to clean the river, as neither can give money directly to the government to revitalize the Citarum.

Among the donors are Dato Sri Tahir of the Mayapada Group and Tahir Foundation, Ted Sioeng from the Sioengs Group, Hendro Gondokusumo of Intiland and Benny Tjokro of Hanson. They have given Rp 20 billion to the program.

Hasto said the loan from the foundation was a temporary measure and only covered minor activities such as for a seedling nursery for plants that will be planted along the river as well as the operations in 13 of Citarum’s 23 zones.

Throughout 2018, the military operation as part of the Citarum rehabilitation program was funded by the Citarum River Basin Area Center under the Public Works and Housing Ministry.

Military personnel have been assigned to carry out various tasks, including clearing up garbage and waste from the river, educating residents on waste disposal as well as taking care of the seedling nursery.

The government said it had allocated Rp 640 billion for the program this year and appointed West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil as the head of the Citarum task force.  

The money would be used to purchase excavators from state-owned weapon maker PT Pindad; construct incinerators in 50 locations along the river as well as 2,050 public bathing, washing and toilet facilities and fund the military operation as part of the project.

West Java Environment Agency head Bambang Riyanto said the disbursement of the fund was delayed because of the plan to build incinerators. “The Public Works and Housing Ministry argued that building incinerators was not their responsibility, so its deliberation was handed over to the Environment and Forestry Ministry,” Bambang said.

As the plan is under discussion, the funding package could not be approved and disbursed by the Finance Ministry on time, causing the military to scramble to find money for the program.

West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil said he had asked Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Panjaitan to disburse the money immediately so the problem would not affect the restoration program.

Pak Luhut said the money would be ready no later than mid-March,” the governor said.