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Alarm over carcinogen in Jakarta river

Greenpeace study says 28 million lives at risk

Alarm over carcinogen in Jakarta river
The Citarum River has been found to contain toxins including hexavelent chromium, a known carcinogen (courtesy of Greenpeace)

Published: November 29, 2012 05:53 AM GMT

Updated: November 28, 2012 10:04 PM GMT

Environmental activists warned yesterday that the lives of 28 million people living in Jakarta and surrounding areas are at risk as a result of toxic chemical pollution in a nearby river system. 

An investigation conducted from June to October by Greenpeace found high levels of dangerous chemical substances in canals and sewers around eight industrial zones along the Citarum River.

The investigation’s results strongly indicate the substances mainly came from small textile industries.

“We approached locations where the industries threw away their waste in order to find out what the chemical substances were,” said Ahmad Ashov Birry, a spokesperson for Greenpeace’s poison-free rivers campaign.  

He said the chemicals included hexavalent chromium, which is widely used in textile dyes. Acknowledged as a human carcinogen, it is banned in many territories including the European Union.

“The substances cannot be broken down. Such noxious materials can accumulate in people’s bodies through the food chain and harm their health,” said Birry.

He said the industries should not persistently use toxic substances in their production processes. “This is the only way to make sure that there is no dangerous poisonous material,” he said.

The Citarum River flows through 12 districts and towns and is used for agriculture, fisheries and industry.

Dadan Ramdan from the province’s Indonesian Forum for the Environment accused the industries of treating the river like a sewer and blamed the government for failing to protect the waterway.

Both Greenpeace and Walhi urged the government to make a political commitment to “zero disposal” of all hazardous and toxic waste in a single generation and to ensure – through a clean production method – that industries immediately stop dumping poisonous chemicals.

Acknowledging that the river has been polluted, a local government official called on all related parties to pay attention to the issue.

“It would be hard if efforts to protect the Citarum River were taken only by the government. [It] needs support and cooperation from society and related parties, including industries,” Didi Adji Sidik told ANTARANews.com.

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