Jakarta – Residents living around the Jambe River in Tambun Selatan district, Bekasi regency, West Java, have been forced to carry out their day-to-day activities for the last three months amid unpleasant smells and flies buzzing into their houses as a result of a massive amount of household waste polluting the river.
Layers of trash, ranging from plastic bags, rice sacks to items such as backpacks, sandals and carpets cover the river as far as 500 meters, covering the river's waters, which have dried up due to the current dry season.
Usman, a 51-year-old local resident, said it was his first time seeing the Jambe River clogged with waste up to the point that it could not flow as usual and that the litter was not washed away by the current.
"The river has never been polluted with such a massive amount of waste. Even though there was litter before, the water was still able to flow smoothly," he told tribunnews.com.
As a result of the situation, the locals were no longer able to fish in the river like they used to, Usman said. "It's impossible to do that right now; instead of catching fish, people will only catch trash."
Wasti, another resident, said she even had a hard time falling asleep because of the awful smell coming from the waste in the river.
"The stench from the river fills every corner of my house, especially at night because the wind is stronger," the 44-year-old said, "I can't avoid it; I just have to put up with it."
The waste has also brought hordes of flies and mosquitoes to the area. "The worst part is the enormous amount of mosquitoes nesting on the polluted river, I really can't stand it," Wasti said.
Marsad, 41, concurred with Wasti, saying he had to burn two packs of mosquito coils every night to keep them away, especially as he was concerned that his children could get illnesses triggered by mosquito bites.
"The mosquito problem has never been this bad in the previous years," he said as quoted by kompas.com.
Both Wasti and Marsad claimed the waste was not produced by the local residents, saying they did not dispose of trash in the river and that the litter came from upstream and got stuck in the water near their neighborhood.
Wasti said the locals had tried to clean up the river, but the efforts were to no avail. "We have pushed the waste downstream, but in less than four days other piles of waste started flowing from upstream."
River pollution is a long-standing issue especially in Bekasi, which has seen a number of rivers in the area under the spotlight for being polluted with tons of plastic waste that clogged the rivers' surfaces and disturbed the public.
Previously, the Pisang Batu River in Pahlawan Setia village, Tarumajaya subdistrict, made headlines after piles of waste as deep as 50 centimeters swamped for 1.5 kilometers along the river. A cleanup activity was launched in December, taking the local administration a month to finish the project.
Last month, the Bekasi Environment Agency lifted around 50 tons of organic waste that had flooded a river in Bahagia sub-district in Babelan, North Bekasi, following protests from local residents.
The Bekasi regency administration has promised to clean up the Jambe River as soon as possible.
Dodi Agus Supriyanto, head of sanitation at the Bekasi Environment Agency, said his office had received the report of severe pollution in the Jambe River about two weeks ago, but they could not take action as they did not have the heavy equipment to clean the river.
"We've been communicating with the Bekasi Public Works and Public Housing Agency (PUPR) to clean the Jambe River. We are ready to provide the manpower and garbage trucks, but we cannot provide the heavy equipment," he said as quoted by kompas.com. (nal)