‘Sea of trash’ fills up river in Indonesia’s Bekasi, excavators needed to clean

Pisang Batu river in Bekasi Regency, West Java, Indonesia, when its surface was completely covered in trash in early January 2019. Photo: Facebook

Trash-filled waterways are quite a common sight in Indonesia, but a village in the Bekasi Regency of West Java managed to make headlines around the country for letting their water pollution problem get way out of hand, even by the country’s lamentably low environmental standards.

Recently, images from Pisang Batu river in Pahlawan Setia village showed the surface of the river to be completely covered with trash, reportedly consisting mostly of discarded plastic waste, organic waste, and even a mattress. The endless layer of trash, dubbed Lautan Sampah (sea of trash) by local media, is said to stretch 1.5 kilometers long and be around 50 centimeters deep.

According to locals, the river mostly consisted of aquatic plants and mud before the local government cleaned it up last month. After the clean up, they say all the trash — not theirs — floated downstream and filled up the river.

“It’s an eyesore. Nobody has gotten sick [from the river pollution], but the smell is disturbing. So many flies and mosquitoes in the evening. Because of the smell, I haven’t been able to sleep well,” Maria, a village resident, told Kompas yesterday.

The local government began another cleaning effort after images of the polluted river went viral over the weekend. A village official said as of Tuesday afternoon, 150 trucks, each with a 2 ton capacity, have carried away the river’s trash, which had to be dug out using excavators. The clean up is reportedly still ongoing to this day.

Due to the extraordinary nature of the water pollution in the river, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan is today holding a meeting with government officials to discuss short term and long term solutions to Indonesia’s water pollution problem.

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