Cianjur. West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan has conceded that the provincial administration cannot work alone to clean up the Citarum River, often dubbed the world’s filthiest.
“We have been working to solve the Citarum’s problems for years and everybody claims to have the best understanding about what to do,” Ahmad said on Monday.
He said most programs aimed at cleaning up the river failed because they lacked coordination, focus and direction.
Last month, the Citarum was included on a list of the world’s most polluted sites published by the Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland.
The list was based on more than 2,000 risk assessments at contaminated sites in 49 countries.
The Citarum River Basin is home to more than 28 million people, five million of whom live in communities along the river’s banks.
The river, which is used among other things for drinking water and to irrigate rice farms, is contaminated by a wide range of toxins, including aluminum and manganese. More than 2,000 factories discharge chemical waste directly into the river.
Drinking water tests have shown lead at levels more than 1,000 times above US standards, the report said.
Another area of Indonesia — Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo — was also added to the list due to the widespread, artisanal, small-scale gold mining there.
Most practitioners of this craft use mercury in the extraction process, and contribute to a large portion of global emissions of the hazardous metal each year.
“We should sit together to discuss the problem, don’t just focus at the national level. There should be a budget at the central and regional level,” said Richard Fuller, who heads the Blacksmith Institute .
According to Fuller, it was estimated that the health of more than 200 million people was at risk from pollution across the developing world.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the population of the greater Citarum River area. The Jakarta Globe regrets the error.