Jakarta's rivers come to life after clean-up

Workers cooling off in one of the tributaries of the Ciliwung River in the Indonesian capital Jakarta last month. Jakarta residents living along a narrow duct that typically runs through slums.
Workers cooling off in one of the tributaries of the Ciliwung River in the Indonesian capital Jakarta last month.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Workers cooling off in one of the tributaries of the Ciliwung River in the Indonesian capital Jakarta last month. Jakarta residents living along a narrow duct that typically runs through slums.
Jakarta residents living along a narrow duct that typically runs through slums.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Activists hail project to dredge and widen 14 rivers but hit out at eviction programme

JAKARTA • A group of children gathered on the banks of the Ciliwung River in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, staring into the water and casting nets to try to catch fish.

Such a scene would have been unthinkable several years ago on Jakarta's longest river, which used to be heavily polluted with stinking rubbish that blanketed the water's surface.

The waterways that criss-cross the teeming, overcrowded city of 10 million people are getting a new lease of life after the local government began a programme to dredge and widen them in 2014.

"Much has been achieved. Our rivers used to be very filthy," said Mr Isnawa Adji, head of the Jakarta environment agency.

The rivers have been a central part of life for many for years, particularly those living in the slums who have grown up alongside them. It was common to see adults and children swimming in the filthy water to escape Indonesia's searing tropical heat, and small wooden boats navigating the waterways.

As well as ridding Jakarta's 14 rivers of rubbish, the authorities have pushed a programme of eviction to clear housing beside the waterways, allowing them to be widened.

This is aimed at easing the floods that inundate Jakarta every year during the rainy season, but has also proved controversial - while activists praised the government's efforts saying the livelihood of those in riverside communities had improved, they also accused the government of tearing communities apart by forcing families to leave their homes. They urged the authorities to do more to stop people from illegally dumping rubbish.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2017, with the headline 'Jakarta's rivers come to life after clean-up'. Print Edition | Subscribe