Tue, 16 Dec 2003

Bekasi sniffs profits in Bantar Gebang dump

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Learning from the Jakarta administration's poor waste management, Bekasi municipal administration will set up a city-owned company to convert Jakarta's waste at the Bantar Gebang dump into fertilizer and electricity.

Bekasi deputy mayor Mochtar Mohamad said on Monday that the company would aim to manage the waste to minimize environmental damage surrounding the dump and to get extra income.

He also said that Bekasi would likely hire experts from Jakarta for the project.

Bekasi has insisted on closing the 104-hectare dump after its contract with Jakarta expires on Dec. 31, although Jakarta offered to pay Rp 25 billion (US$2.94 million) to continuing using it.

Mochtar said that Jakarta would only be allowed to dump its 6,000 tons of daily waste at the Sumur Batu dump, owned by Bekasi municipality, for a six-month period.

"If Jakarta administration wants to dispose of its garbage at Sumur Batu, it must pay the price, but the figure is still being calculated," Mochtar was quoted by Antara as saying.

Only four hectares of the 10-hectare area of Sumur Batu dump has been allocated for Bekasi's rubbish. Up to 2,000 tons of garbage is dumped on the four-hectare area each day.

Bekasi Municipal administration spokesman Cecep Sutandi claimed that the dump uses a landfill system.

However, a recent analysis from non-governmental organization, the Environment Community Union (ECU), revealed that water taken from the wells of residents in the area contained coliform bacteria, cyanide, chloride, cadmium, chrome, zinc and mercury, which are believed to derive from the dump.

The contaminated water has allegedly killed vegetation in the area and caused locals to suffer from skin problems.

ECU director, Benny Tunggul, said that the real problem behind Bantar Gebang dump was that its waste wasn't managed efficiently.

"If the waste is managed professionally, there won't be any environmental damage," he said, as quoted by Antara.

Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso told a plenary meeting of the City Council that his administration had talked over the matter intensively with Bekasi.

Sutiyoso did not go into details, but assistant to the city secretary for development affairs, Irzal Djamal, said that the talks focused on the possible extension of the use of the dump and processing the existing garbage.

"We want to convert the existing garbage into compost and liquid fertilizer before we use the area for Jakarta's waste again," he said.

Jakarta has used Bantar Gebang as a dump site since 1986. Two years ago, Bekasi closed down Bantar Gebang, the ensuing waste crisis in the capital ended with President Megawati Soekarnoputri's intervention. Bekasi argued that the dump caused widespread pollution and was detrimental to the public's health.

Jakarta paid Rp 22 billion in compensation for the use of Bantar Gebang in 2002 and 2003.