Indonesia embarks on Herculean project to clean world’s most polluted river

A man paddling his raft at the Citarum river at the Cijeruk village in Bandung. Labelled “the most-polluted in the world,” the river is the only source of water for 15 million Indonesians who live on its banks, despite the risks to health and crops. (AFP)
Updated 05 March 2018
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Indonesia embarks on Herculean project to clean world’s most polluted river

JAKARTA: Green activists are urging the Indonesian government to take firm action against thousands of factories on the banks of Citarum River in Indonesia’s West Java province that have been polluting the river and its tributaries for decades.
Indonesia has announced its ambitious seven-year program target to clean up what has been labeled as the most polluted river the world.
Dwi Sawung, urban and energy campaigner from the oldest and the largest environmental advocacy NGO – the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) – said it would take at least 15 years to rehabilitate the river from rampant chemical industrial waste that has scummed over the river’s once-pristine water.
“It will not work unless the government gets tough on those factories, especially the big ones. Law enforcement agencies have been lenient, slapping only small fines on them. Rehabilitating the river would be much easier if the pollution only comes from household garbage,” Dwi told Arab News.
The Indonesian government plans to issue a presidential regulation that will mandate the establishment of a government task force overseeing an integrated effort to clean up the 297-kilometer-long river flowing from the southern part of the province to the north.
“We plan to issue the presidential regulation within a week or two,” Safri Burhanudin, the deputy minister for resources, science and technology at the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs told Arab News.
Safri said the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan will head the task force, which will involve various ministries, army, police and local administrations the river runs through.
The effort kicked off on Feb. 1 at the river’s upstream area in Cisanti Lake of Bandung district and was marked by President Joko Widodo planting a tree at the lake on Feb. 22. After the ceremony, the president tweeted from his official account that the government is making the quickest effort possible to clean the river so that it can be a source of drinking water in seven years.
Yuliarto Putranto, director of watershed management planning at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, said the ministry’s efforts of replanting trees in the upstream region started in 2015 and this year it plans to plant trees in a 2,500-hectare area to prevent further erosion and sedimentation along the river.
“We have to reduce sedimentation as low as possible since it causes flooding and we start where the water originates,” Yuliarto told Arab News.
“The government has to stop issuing permits for land conversion projects along the river’s waterways, because they strip the river of its vegetation areas,” Dadan Ramdan, the West Java chapter executive director of Walhi told Arab News.
There are about 2,000 factories, including textile plants, along the river that dump their waste into the water and, according to Dadan, some 500 are within the Bandung basin region.
The Citarum River and its tributaries serve as an important water supply to roughly 27.5 million inhabitants in the greater area of Bandung, the provincial capital of West Java, and the greater Jakarta region. It supplies 80 percent of water to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and irrigates around 420,000 hectares of rice farms.


Australia’s conservative coalition wins surprise 3rd term

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media as he arrives at the Horizon Church in Sutherland in Sydney, Australia, May 19, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 May 2019
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Australia’s conservative coalition wins surprise 3rd term

  • Govt claims miraculous result, but unclear if can form majority
  • Morrison govt polls strongly in Queensland state

CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s ruling conservative coalition won a surprise victory in the country’s general election on Saturday, defying opinion polls that had tipped the center-left opposition party to oust it from power and promising an end to the revolving door of national leaders.
“I have always believed in miracles,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a jubilant Sydney crowd.
He compared his Liberal Party’s victory for a third three-year term to the births of his daughters, Abbey, 11, and Lily, 9, who were conceived naturally after 14 years of in vitro fertilization had failed. His wife, Jenny Morrison, suffered endometriosis.
“I’m standing with the three biggest miracles in my life here tonight, and tonight we’ve been delivered another one,” he said, embraced by his wife and daughters.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten had earlier conceded defeat as the coalition came close to a majority in the 151-seat House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form a government. Vote counting was to continue on Sunday.
“I’m disappointed for people who depend upon Labor, but I’m glad that we argued what was right, not what was easy,” Shorten told his supporters.
Shorten would have become Australia’s sixth prime minister in as many years. He said he would no longer lead Labor after six years at the helm.
The tight race raised the prospect of the coalition forming a minority government. The conservatives became a rare minority government after they dumped Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister for Morrison in an internal power struggle last August. The government then lost two seats and its single-seat majority as part of the blood-letting that followed.
An unpopular single-term Labor government that was voted out in 2013 had been the only previous minority government since World War II.
Opinion polls prior to Saturday’s election had suggested that the coalition would lose and that Morrison would have had one of the shortest tenures as prime minister in the 118-year history of the Australian federation.
Morrison had focused his campaigning on polling that showed while Labor was more popular than the government, the prime minister was more popular than Shorten.
There was so much public confidence of a Labor victory that Australian online bookmaker Sportsbet paid out 1.3 million Australian dollars ($900,000) to bettors who backed Labor two days before the election. Sportsbet said 70% of wagers had been placed on Labor at odds of $1.16.
Another betting agency, Ladbrokes, said it had accepted a record AU$1 million wager on Labor.
Shorten, who campaigned heavily on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, said Saturday morning that he was confident Labor would win, but Morrison would not be drawn on a prediction.
Morrison is the conservatives’ third prime minister since they were elected in 2013.
Tony Abbott, who became the first of those three prime ministers in the 2013 election, conceded defeat in the Sydney seat he has held since 1994.
Polling suggests climate change was a major issue in that seat for voters, who instead elected an independent candidate, Zali Steggall. As prime minister in 2014, Abbott repealed a carbon tax introduced by a Labor government. Abbott was replaced by Turnbull the next year because of poor opinion polling, but he remained a government lawmaker.
A maverick senator who blamed the slaughter of 51 worshippers in two New Zealand mosques on the country’s immigration policies also lost his bid for election.
Fraser Anning was the target of widespread condemnation for railing against Muslim immigration within hours of the mass shootings in the New Zealand city of Christchurch in March. He faced more criticism later for physically striking a teenage protester who cracked a raw egg on his head and was censured by the Senate.
Senior Labor lawmaker Chris Bowen said his party may have suffered from what he conceded was an unusual strategy of pushing a detailed policy agenda through the election campaign.
Morrison began the day Saturday by campaigning in the island state of Tasmania, where the Liberals appeared to have gained two Labor-held seats. He then flew 900 kilometers (560 miles) home to Sydney to vote and to campaign in Sydney seats.
Shorten campaigned hard on more ambitious targets to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The government has committed Australia to reduce its emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Labor has promised a 45% reduction in the same time frame.
Shorten, a 52-year-old former labor union leader, has also promised a range of reforms, including the government paying all of a patients’ costs for cancer treatment and a reduction of tax breaks for landlords.
Morrison, a former tourism marketer, promised lower taxes and better economic management than Labor.
Both major parties promised that whoever won the election would remain prime minister until he next faces the voters’ judgment. The parties have changed their rules to make the process of lawmakers replacing a prime minister more difficult.
During Labor’s last six years in office, the party replaced Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his deputy Julia Gillard, then dumped her for Rudd.