Indonesia: Jakarta vows to save endemic animals, plants of Ciliwung River

The Jakarta Post 12 Nov 15;

The Jakarta Administration has promised to save the Ciliwung River from environmental degradation to protect endangered endemic animals and plants living in and around the river during the commemoration of Ciliwung Day on Wednesday.

Jakarta Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat said on Wednesday that there was no other way to prevent the animals and plants from going into extinction except by keeping the river as clean as possible, including by prohibiting people from dumping trash into it.

“We have a strong commitment to save the Ciliwung River. I have a dream that one day tourists will come here to Ciliwung to see local animals and to eat local fruits,” he said at a river bank Ciliwung Day event in Kramat Jati, East Jakarta.

The Ciliwung River, which flows 120 kilometers from Bogor in West Java to the ocean, is one of the biggest rivers that flow through Jakarta. Like other rivers, the Ciliwung has been heavily polluted by wastewater from millions of households and industries in Jakarta, Depok and Bogor.

Djarot mentioned the soft shell turtle called bulus senggawangan as an example of an animal that was hard to find in the river today.

“Why do we hurt them [bulus senggawangan]? We are often so greedy that we destroy everything in the river just to get a material benefit,” he said.

He also mentioned the salak [snakefruit] Condet fruit as a fruit that needs protection.

“If we do not act to protect the fruit from now on, in five or six years we might be importing this fruit from Thailand as they grow it there. Why should we import our own local fruit from Thailand?” he said.

He further said that protecting the Ciliwung River did not only mean protecting animals and plants, but also Jakartan culture and tradition that was a result of the interaction between the city and the river.

“The Ciliwung was once the source of livelihood and civilization for society here. We will lose that culture if we do not protect the river,” he said.

Local community Ciliwung Condet member Isto Hari separately explained that in the past many people prayed and held rituals near the river when they wished for good fortune, such as a good harvest.

“Now, we hardly find such rituals performed near the river because it is already damaged,” he told The Jakarta Post. “It is a tradition that has been practiced for a long time.”

Djarot said that protecting the river could start with prohibiting people from dumping trash into it.

“I have previously suggested that the administration should form a trash squad. Litterbugs should be arrested and frowned upon,” he said. “Until now, we can still find mattresses, pillows, clothes, towels and even chicken corpses in the river.”

Meanwhile, Ciliwung Condet’s Isto criticized the administration’s approach to protecting the river. He said protecting the river would not work by just prohibiting people from dumping trash into it.

“Prohibiting people from dumping trash into the river is a good move, but the administration should do more than that. The government should free the banks of the river from any buildings or houses to give the river space,” he explained, adding that the space would absorb water so that not all rainwater would flow into the river.

He said the administration should begin from upstream to down. “The administration could plant bamboo and other trees on the space to maximize water absorption and reduce the river’s water volume during the rainy season.”

Isto also said that the administration’s plan to line the river’s banks with concrete would not help to prevent flooding because the real cause of the flooding was that the banks of the river were not able to sufficiently absorb water.

“The administration should have used the money to free the river banks from houses and buildings,” he said. (saf)

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