The Jakarta Post
The metamorphosis of the Situ Rawa Gede Lake in Bojong Menteng subdistrict, Bekasi, West Java, into an aesthetically pleasing yet affordable tourist spot is an example not only of how a collaborative effort between local residents and authorities can create something out of nothing, but also of how such a project can transform the mentalities of those involved.
One does not need to pay to enter the lake area. Taking selfies at the gazebos and piers and by the lake’s main sign, which is made of recycled plastic bottles, costs nothing.
The only fees that are charged are affordable. The recommended bamboo rafts available for rent cost Rp 10,000 (70 US cents) for adults and Rp 5,000 for children above 3 years old. For infants and people with disabilities, they are free.
Lush trees surround the 7-hectare lake and noise from outside is minimal, as the site is largely isolated from neighboring villages.
At around 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the lake was crowded with around 30 people waiting in line to ride the rafts. Most of the visitors were women and their children, who walked about the rafts as their mothers took pictures.
That day, two bamboo rafts, steered by two raft attendants each, were available. Each has a maximum capacity of 15 passengers.
During the ride, no trash could be found. According to local resident Hikmah, the color of the water had greatly improved compared to when she visited the lake a few years ago.
“Back then, the water was black and filled with trash that came from the nearby swamp. Large trucks used to come daily to dump trash into the swamp,” she said.
The cleaning and beautification process of the Situ Rawa Gede Lake began in November last year when the Environmental Pollution Prevention Villages (KPPL) program was initiated by the Bekasi Environment and Toxic Waste Awareness Community Alliance (Amphibi). The trash-clearing process alone took three months.
“Before being established as a tourist spot, there were individuals who spread rumors that this lake was haunted,” said Bekasi Amphibi leader Krisdayadi.
“Those individuals were the ones responsible for the disposal of trash via trucks in the nearby swamp. Now that we have visitors at almost every hour, they are afraid of polluting.”
Krisdayadi said the number of visitors on average varied from 500 on weekdays to 1,000 on weekends. Income from the raft rides ranges from Rp 1 million to Rp 3 million a day.
“Sixty percent of the proceeds are used for lake maintenance, while 40 percent goes to the raft attendants,” said Bekasi Amphibi member Zenal Abidin.
Amphibi’s efforts to transform the lake have created jobs for local residents. Raft attendant Ali Hermawan, 16, previously did not pay much attention to the pollution at the lake, which is located near his neighborhood.
“Other than having extra income, being a raft attendant had made me become more attentive to the cleanliness of the lake,” said Ali. “I also find it enjoyable talking to the visitors as I paddle the boat.”
Bekasi Amphibi is not limited to lake restoration. It is currently involved in developing Jatimulya village in Bekasi. Meanwhile, Amphibi itself has many chapters across the country, operating out of places like North Sumatra, Riau, East Java and Banten.
“Amphibi Bekasi is currently collaborating with Amphibi Banten in beautifying several Islamic schools in a number of villages across Banten,” Zenal said.
Zenal also mentioned that Amphibi was planning to branch out to Malaysia as part of its first step toward realizing the organization’s objective of going international.
The Situ Rawa Gede Lake is normally open from 7 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. daily. (bry)