Like many big cities in developing countries, Jakarta suffers from major urbanization problems. With an estimated population of around 23 million, Jakarta is now the fourth largest urban area in the world.
The rapid population growth has outgrown the government’s ability to provide basic needs for its residents. Air pollution and waste management are some from many severe problems faced by Jakarta residents.
We’ve arrived to cover a story on the Ciliwung River, considered one of the most polluted rivers in Indonesia, if not the world. The water canals in Ciliwung river is largely used to flush human sewage, increasing the level of E.coli in the water, thus making it unfit for human consumption. The nitrates and phosphates found in sewage, and in fertilizers, also lead to an over-stimulation in the growth of aquatic plants such as algae. This in turn is very harmful to aquatic organisms such as fish, as it inhibits their respiratory ability.
Another factor contributing to water pollution in Ciliwung River is the large amount of rubbish and waste deposited into the river by inhabitants of the riverside. There is so much garbage coating the surface that in many places you can’t see the water. Garbage of all types, including industrial effluents, empty plastic bottles, and cans can be seen floating around on the turbid waters of the Ciliwung.
Imagine having to live in a stilt shack above this polluted river. Your home is made out of cardboards, metal sheets and triplex. Your shack barely shelters you from rain or the heat of the day. In rainy season, where flooding is a daily occurrence, you and your family have to always be on guard and prepare to move up to higher grounds within minutes notice.
Forget about having your own room! This very modest shack only has one living area where you sleep, eat, clean yourself, and even play. You need to share this one tiny common area with the rest of the family.
Waking up everyday to a nasty smell from the polluted river doesn’t bother you anymore. The smell is the least of your worries. When you have to rely on polluted water to do your washing, cooking and bathing, you brush off the fact that this highly polluted water may cause heath issues – a lot of cases of skin disease, diarrhea and acute respiratory problems. Even if you boil the water before drinking, this process will kill the bacteria but it certainly won’t get rid of the heavy metals and toxic chemicals.
This is a sad glimpse of what is happening to our children living in Ciliwung River. But as you go through these pictures, you can see the resilient nature of children. Children remain children, wherever they are, and how dire the situation may seem. You can see them smiling and playing. They adapt to the situation… They live on… What other choices do they have???