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
0

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.


Swiss parliament backs expelling militants to states that use torture

Updated 24 min 32 sec ago
0

Swiss parliament backs expelling militants to states that use torture

  • Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told a debate in parliament that the government sympathized with proponents of the measure but its hands were tied
  • One of the convicted militants is a wheelchair-bound man found guilty in 2016 of planning terrorist attacks and helping Daesh operatives enter Switzerland

ZURICH: Switzerland’s parliament approved allowing convicted militants to be sent home to countries where they could face torture, leaving the government to decide how to implement the motion without breaking international law.
The Swiss constitution bans expelling people to countries where they might be subject to torture. But parlimament’s upper house on Tuesday narrowly adopted a motion allowing exceptions for foreign militants, as the Swiss lower house had done.
The motion stems from discontent among lawmakers over the ability of Iraqi militants convicted in Swiss courts of aiding Daesh to avoid being sent home because of the ban on exposing people to torture or other inhumane treatment.
Conservative critics say the ban has cost taxpayer money to care for convicted militants and angered citizens who say Switzerland should not have to host such people on its soil.
Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told a debate in parliament that the government sympathized with proponents of the measure but its hands were tied.
“The security of the Swiss population has top priority but we also have to adhere to the limits of the rule of law.”
One of the convicted militants is a wheelchair-bound man found guilty in 2016 of planning terrorist attacks and helping Daesh operatives enter Switzerland. Freed from prison, he now lives in a transit center for asylum seekers and is fighting extradition.
Switzerland said this month it would not help bring home its own stranded citizens who had joined extremist forces in Syria and Iraq, insisting national security was paramount.
Switzerland is a signatory to the United Nations’ 1984 Convention against Torture, which bars expulsions of people to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
Iraq is also a party to the convention, but lacks laws or guidelines providing for judicial action when defendants allege torture or mistreatment, Human Rights Watch said in a report last year. It said torture was rampant in Iraq’s justice system.