Waste destroys Indonesian river that feeds farms: report

Pollution from textile factories causes $866 million in potential losses, activists say
Waste destroys Indonesian river that feeds farms: report

Farmers wear traditional hats with words that read "Toxic pollution destroys livelihoods" and "Free rice fields from industrial waste" when they plant rice in their polluted rice fields. (Photo courtesy of Greenpeace Indonesia)

Two decades of contamination from industrial waste has destroyed nearly 1,000 hectares of rice fields in Indonesia's West Java province causing potentially US$866 million in economic losses, according to a report by a coalition of environmental groups.

The 22-page report "Hidden Consequences: Valuation of Economic Loss Due to Industrial Water," examined the impact the destruction had on local people living in four villages along the Cikijing River.

It was released April 4 in Jakarta by the Coalition Fighting Against Industrial Waste, which consists of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, Greenpeace Indonesia, Pawapeling and Bandung Legal Aid.

"The Cikijing is one of the most polluted rivers" in Indonesia, the report said, adding that a 2009 research project showed the river had a high concentration "of heavy metals such as chromium, copper and zinc."

The report also noted that there was an accumulation of hazardous substances in the river's sediment and in rice plants growing in polluted rice fields that are fed by the river.

The pollution caused by the industrial waste "continues until now without any transparent and effective efforts to deal with it," the report said.      

The report estimates that the economic loss to the region due to pollution at 11.4 trillion rupiah, or about US$866.4 million, which includes costs for decontaminating the river and land.

Adi Yadi from Pawapeling, a local advocacy organization, said the district was known in the 1980s as a producer of high-quality rice.

All that changed in the 1990s when textile manufacturers arrived in the area and industrial waste from the factories allegedly polluted the river, Yadi said.

"Until now, there's been no effort to fix it. Hundreds of hectares of rice fields are polluted, which affects the quality of the rice," he said.

Ahmad Ashov Birry of Greenpeace Indonesia said the coalition filed a lawsuit last year against three textile manufacturers, with the trial beginning in February.

"It is still in process. We do not know when a verdict will be announced," he told ucanews.com.

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