Mon, 10 Oct 1994

Waste disposal

This is a letter of inquiry through your columns to the Jakarta Metropolitan City (DKI) on a matter of private interest and public concern.

I am curious to know what the policy of waste disposal is at the very bottom end of the chain. Household waste is dumped into the household tempat sampah (dustbin). On the other side of the fence/wall, assorted scavengers and waste disposal executives sort through and remove items of interest. These are carried away to be prepared and sold for recycling.

Fine. So far the system has the approval of the highest authorities in the land. It is praised for providing employment, and for being eco-friendly.

At this point the rest is carted away by gerobak or lorry. Where to?

At the end of my road, up until six months ago, there used to be a fine, rare and spacious field, used by the neighborhoods around for inter-district football matches, for communal films, wayang performances and various children's amusements -- functions necessary for communal health in a crowded urban environment. It was the only such space for miles around.

Was it DKI's policy to cover the area with an enormous rubbish dump? Since only about ten to 15 percent of rubbish can be recycled is this the official bottom end of the chain -- to rot and burn the rest away in the middle of the city?

This communal facility has been lost. For twenty-four hours a day the entire field and neighborhood are blanketed in dense, acrid smoke. The health of some of the local children has visibly declined. The incidence of rat-related diseases has also risen. After heavy rain, the two sides of the dump bordering the Kali Krukut are washed away to block the river and Pluit dam, happily providing more space for more dumping. Is this why the Executive Paradise complex further down the valley is now subject to flooding? What, you may wonder, is this doing to the water table?

True, the banci (transvestites) and the cockfighting have disappeared as a result. However, I think we preferred them to the current situation.

It is true that no cities have solved the problem of waste disposal, least of all those in the developed world. However, burning off rubbish on a massive scale as a matter of policy in a city already suffering increasingly heavy air-pollution, and associated respiratory problems, seems to be worst of all of the unsatisfactory solutions. Why worry about air-pollution caused by traffic when much of the problem is caused by burning garbage. As for the dangers of rotting piles of rubbish, DKI might contact the Indian health authorities for an update.

Or perhaps this is not the result of policy. Perhaps this particular dump is illegal -- some local initiative, or a developer trying to fill the land for construction. Perhaps DKI could enlighten us. Whatever the reason, considering the damage it is doing, I think the local community deserves an explanation. They are powerless, it seems, and have suggested that a foreigner may be able to get more action than they by drawing attention to the problem.

And, if it turns out that the authorities know nothing about it, perhaps they could consider doing something about it. It is located alongside the Kali Krukut. Gerobak, access, is through Jl B, Jl Haji Naim III just behind the Prapanca Luxury Apartments. A bird's eye view is obtainable from the big new Garden Residences, Kemang, or from Indosat from which is surely must be visible.