Fri, 11 Jun 2004

Waste makes cheap fuel, environment expert says

Bambang Nurbianto, Jakarta

Regional Representatives Council (DPD) member-elect Sarwono Kusumaatmadja called on the city administration on Thursday to formulate a serious plan to resolve the city's garbage problem using technology so as escape its dependence on neighboring jurisdictions.

Sarwono, who was a state minister for the environment during the President Soeharto era, said the administration should initially process waste into briquettes as this required only simple technology.

"We can afford the technology. The briquettes can be made from all kinds of garbage," he said during a seminar on waste held by Radio 68H.

According to Sarwono, producing briquettes from waste in Canada had been supported by senior politicians in both the government and state institutions. They participated in campaigning for the use of such briquettes as construction materials.

He urged administration officials to apply the technology and to use such briquettes for house construction.

"If the campaign is successful, Jakarta will be able to import garbage from neighboring cities as its own waste will be not enough to supply the briquette firms," he said.

Jakarta produces around 6,000 tons of waste daily. Since 1986, the waste has been dumped at the Bantar Gebang dump in Bekasi municipality using sanitary landfill technology.

The dumping has caused environmental damage and health problems for surrounding residents. They have been demanding the closure of Bantar Gebang for years.

In late 2001 and 2003, Jakarta experienced a waste crisis when the Bekasi administration finally bowed to residents' demands and closed down the dump.

The administration and the City Council agreed to make allocations out of the city budget for technology-based waste management in 2002. Some city officials and councillors also conducted comparative studies in a number of countries.

However, to date the city has only managed to establish a dump in Bojong, Bogor regency, that uses German bale press technology with a capacity of 1,500 tons of waste per day. But the dump has also been strongly opposed by locals who fear they will experience the same sort of problems as Bantar Gebang residents.

Jakarta has also provided another sanitary landfill dump in Karawang, West Java.

Amir Sagala, an official responsible for waste management in the Jakarta Sanitation Agency, said 89 proposals have been received on technological-based waste management that could use waste to produce various useful things, including fertilizer, compost, electricity and briquettes.

Many businessmen, however, withdrew their bids after learning that the waste the city was offering was made up of numerous substances that were difficult to convert.

Sarwono, however, said that the use of waste management technology was only a matter of political will on the part of the city's leaders.