Famous for Being Dirty, Ciliwung River of Indonesia: 119 Km of Disgustingly Defiled Water

Famous for Being Dirty, Ciliwung River of Indonesia: 119 Km of Disgustingly Defiled Water

The Ciliwung River is one of the most famous location for the citizens in the capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia. It’s too bad that the river was famous for being dirty, smells bad, and a slum for the poor. These circumstances happened because of human interference, who reside near the Ciliwung River. It’s always a good idea to live near a source of water, but this issue proves that it wasn’t an easy task, as your actions might affect the water source quality. This article will narrate the story of the filthiest river in Jakarta, from getting sullied, and sanitized.

Ciliwung River and it’s Putrid Glory

Ciliwung river is a very famous river in Indonesia, located in the City of Bogor, Special Capital Region of Jakarta, Northwestern region of Java Island. This river has a 119 km (74 mi) in length, and it flows in a northern direction passing several active volcanoes such as Mount Salak, Mount Kendeng, and Mount Halimun. The river crosses big main cities like Bogor and Jakarta before finally flowing into the Java Sea through the Jakarta Bay. Ciliwung River has made quite a reputation, for being filthy and the most polluted river in Indonesia.

Indonesia, for a fact, is the 2nd biggest marine polluter in the world (right behind China). It was believed to be caused by the lacking of proper management of plastic waste which outpacing mitigation efforts. With that statement in mind, it’s doesn’t sounds so much of a  surprise anymore, Ciliwung River is filthy as the plastic waste management is lacking. Speaking of plastic waste management, Indonesia has an ambitious target to reduce plastic waste by 70% by 2025, they have 4 years left and yet Ciliwung River only changed slightly.

Ciliwung River viewed from above, with illegal settlements built next to the riverbanks

Photo is taken from: Merdeka.com
Ciliwung River viewed from above, with illegal settlements built next to the riverbanks
Photo is taken from: Merdeka.com

Not only in the region, Ciliwung River might be one of the dirtiest river in the world. As a study commited by an NGO Waste4Change proves,  Ciliwung River are more polluted than at least 20 rivers in Europe and Southeast Asia. It is so polluted, every one hour you can find at least 20,000 macro plastics (plastics with a size of more than five milimetres) items flowing into the ocean, which sourced from the Ciliwung River. For comparison, Thailand’s Chao Praya River has 5,000 items per hour, and France’s Seine River has 700 items per hour.

The study also finds that the weight of plastic waste from all rivers in Jakarta were 2.1 million kilograms in total, an equivalent weight of 1,000 cars. The plastic waste the were found in the river was mostly plastic bags and food wrappings, from here we can deduct that each household dumps their garbages straight into the water system. Things might get nastier during rainy season in Jakarta, which ironically the time where garbages we’re dumped there the most. During rainy season, there is a higher chance for a flood to strike.

Neighborhood getting flooded by dirty water from the Ciliwung River

Photo is taken from: Kompas Megapolitan
Neighborhood getting flooded by dirty water from the Ciliwung River
Photo is taken from: Kompas Megapolitan

Recalling on how much of a polluted river Ciliwung is, the flooding water will most likely be filthy as well, swarming with bacteria which can be harmful for the citizen’s health. If you think that the condition was okay during dry season, that wasn’t the case. During dry season, Ciliwung River emits a tremendously putrid smell and it is pitch black in colour. The citizens is very uncomfortable as the stench can be smelled from dozens of meters away from the riverbank, the water can even make your skin itch in contact.

Ciliwung River Sanitary Efforts

Considering how Ciliwung River can get so dirty in the first place, Jakarta might really need to reduce its contribution to global plastic pollution, especially in rainy season where the number was at it’s peak. Let it be a lesson for Indonesia or any other country to carefully monitor plastic waste in their rivers and waterways. In-depth study of plastic pollution in rivers and canals holds the key to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the oceans. Speaking of research, it has been started by a couple of institutions thankfully.

Some of the top Indonesian universities such as Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS), IPB University, and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences volunteered to conduct a research, alongside with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries while receiving external help from Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands. Research to study the 20 most polluted river in Java and provide data-driven suggestions to tackle plastic waste issues in Indonesia.

Important note for this polluted river problem is to know where these plastic waste came from, how they flow through the water system and how they vary during the year. Luckily, the condition of Ciliwung river is getting better as it always piqued stakeholder’s attention and taken serious, immediate actions. Like for example in June 2019, Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry held an event to mass-cleaning the river. It was attended by 8,433 people, tasked to clean 69,3km of the polluted river.

Ciliwung River in a clean condition after an intensive cleaning

Photo is taken from Makassar Terkini
Ciliwung River in a clean condition after an intensive cleaning
Photo is taken from: Makassar Terkini

Speaking of clean water, you might want to read: Corporation’s Bottled Water Scam: 3 Minutes Reading of Repulsive Truth

Then again, regardless of all that intensive care, it will be meaningless if the citizens in the river’s proximity didn’t follow through to keep it clean. Everytime the river was in a good and clean shape, the citizens starts dumping their waste all over again, because they believe there will be janitors that will clean it up for them. Another alibi is that the public garbage can  provided was too small to contain their daily household wastes. Even with a 3 meter high fence built to protect the riverbank, they keep dumping their garbage relentlessly.

References: Indonesia’s Ciliwung among the world’s most polluted rivers, By The Conversation, 20th February 2020

Dry season turns Ciliwung River black and smelly, By The Jakarta Post, 27th July 2019

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